Saturday, July 24, 2010

U.S. Senate Exhibits Pivotal Failure of Democracy

I've been writing about climate change issues for a while now. I've talked about the climate science, the leadership role of the House of Representatives, the childish politics and conservative propaganda. I've talked about the strong obstructionism against action by lobbyists, Republicans, and conservative Democrats. I've talked about the climatic, humanitarian, and security implications of inaction, and the concerted move (and failure) to block any government action at all. I've talked about the awareness among Americans, the problems with the media, and the implications of the oil spill.

But now it kind of feels like it's all over. Not because the Senate followed the House's leadership and passed a piece of climate change legislation of their own. But because the Senate fundamentally failed to do anything at all.

On Thursday, the announcement by Harry Reid was official: There will be no climate change bill.No it's not going to be the Kerry-Boxer bill that largely mirrored the House bill. No, it's not going to be the watered-down American Power Act put together by Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman. No, it's not going to be the Cantwell-Collins CLEAR Act or the bill that Kerry started negotiating a few weeks ago to cover only the electric utility sector under a carbon cap. No, it's not even going to be a carbon cap-less bill with a strong renewable energy standard. No, no, no, no. The New York Times reports:
Democrats said the slimmer package would ensure that BP would pay for the cleanup of the gulf oil spill, and would promote further production of natural gas as well as the manufacturing of natural gas vehicles, especially big trucks. They said it would also tighten household energy efficiency requirements and increase financing of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
I try not to curse on this blog, but WHAT THE FUCK? A year after the House passed a comprehensive, economy-wide bill to cap carbon dioxide pollution and start to address one of the most fundamental global problems of our time, the Senate has come out with nothing. Making sure BP pays for the catastrophe it's wreaked on the gulf. That must be hard to get bipartisan support for. Giving incentives for natural gas production and trucks. T. Boone Pickens will have a heyday.

This is unbelievable. It is exemplary of the indisputable ineffectuality of the U.S. Senate. The dilatory culture, the lack of courage, the hyperpartisanship, the intellectual dishonesty, and the sheer disregard for science and reality. These things all prevail in our nation's upper chamber.

Even as a majority of Americans support greenhouse gas regulations, electric utilities are on board to implement a carbon cap, politicians had settled on the  Republican-devised scheme of cap-and-trade instead of a carbon tax, and report after report shows that the cost to consumers will be insignificant, Harry Reid has raised the white flag and Democrats have given up. Certainly, blame should be placed primarily on obstructionist Republicans trying to score political points, conservative Democrats who accepted the misinformation about costs and economic harm, President Obama (where the fuck has he been?) and many, many others. But in the end, Senate Democrats have acquiesced on an issue that can't just be looked at again in a couple of years.

No, climate change is a different beast altogether. It's not like health care or civil rights or campaign finance reform. It's not just a legislative agenda item that can keep coming up every congressional session until it gets passed. Climate change is happening now, and the country that emits 25% of the world's greenhouse gases has an obligation to undertake mitigation efforts before the only solution left is to give aid to the countries we've fucked and try to adapt ourselves to the new climatic conditions. Climatologists have been abundantly clear: We don't have time to waste. Unfortunately, wasting time is about the only thing our Senate has done effectively this session.

With the most Democratic House and Senate since 1980, there's not going to be a better opportunity in the next several years. There's no second try here. It's been completely squandered. After committing on the international level to reduce our emissions by 17% by 2020, we have come out with a plan to do absolutely nothing. Democracy has failed.

Images: Noah's Ark Cartoon (Chris Madden)

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