Tea Party, Oil Companies Take Aim at State Climate Laws


Photo credit: JosephLeonardo via Flickr/CC BY-SA

Who would have thought that two years after the definitive election of a president who counted addressing climate change and instituting a forward-looking energy policy among his top priorities, the state of climate politics would be more miserable than ever. The failure to pass clean energy and climate legislation, with the prospects of doing so anytime in the near future looking bleak, would be bad enough. But it only gets worse -- emboldened by the death of the Senate bill and riding on a wave of anti-regulatory, anti-government sentiment, campaigners are seeking to actually overturn already existing climate laws in some key states. And the prime battlegrounds are: California and New Jersey.

As Politico reports,

The nation's premier state-led climate programs are under attack by a growing coalition of industry, tea party and conservative activists.

Opponents to limits on greenhouse gas emissions see the fights in California and New Jersey as the next step in the fight over global warming policy after the demise of federal cap-and-trade legislation on Capitol Hill.

California, as you likely know, currently boasts the strongest legislative effort of any state to address climate change. That legislation, AB 32, was passed by popular vote in 2006, and was triumphantly signed into law by Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now, sensing some momentum from the spate of victories for anti-government Tea Party candidates, and faltering understanding of climate science throughout much of America, fossil fuel industry and conservative forces are striking while the iron is hot.

Texas oil companies Valero and Tesoro are dumping funds into supporting a proposition that would effectively kill California's climate law -- Proposition 23. The conservative activist group, Americans for Prosperity (the group founded by the oil & coal magnate David Koch that helped create the Tea Party), is taking advantage of those funds to organize support behind the proposition. They're trotting out the same talking points we've heard a billion times before -- that efforts to reduce emissions will devastate the economy and kill jobs, and so on. But as is so often with these movements, the seed of opposition can clearly be traced to a simple root: plain ol' corporations protecting their interests.

Thankfully, Californians better understand the importance of protecting a law that keeps the state competitive in the clean energy market while acting to curb climate change -- voters polled are dismissing Prop 23 thus far.

A similar battle is being waged in New Jersey. The state is part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is a mini cap-and-trade system for East Coast states. Fossil fuel lobbies are evidently working hard to get the state's popular conservative governor, Chris Christie, to pull out of it, according to Politico. The Americans for Prosperity (yes, them again) are behind that effort as well, and have staged protests outside the RGGI headquarters in New York.

The depressing thing about all of this is that it's yet another unavoidable reminder that climate change has become hopelessly conflated with liberalism -- the proposed policy solutions have become scrambled up with the science, so that the two form essentially a single entity in the minds of so many American voters. The recent surge of victorious Tea Party candidates makes this clear. Is it a coincidence that all of them dispute the science behind climate change?

It's fast becoming an even uglier, steaming mess -- and if we're not careful, we're going to start losing the few good policies we have in place in the confusion.

More on Climate Politics
33 US Military Generals, Admirals: " Climate Change is Threatening National Security
Valero Spends $500000 To Kill California Emissions Law
Schwarzenegger Proposes New Climate Change Conference

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