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US elections & the climate - Nov 7

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Muddled up in climate politics

Asher Miller, Reuters
For those of us hoping for substantive climate or energy legislation in the near future, Tuesday’s election was a mixed bag at best.

And that’s after having lowered our expectations following Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) decision to pull the plug on advancing the American Power Act back in July.

If Democrats couldn’t muster the votes or political capital with majorities in both houses of Congress, there was little chance following a mid-term election that was sure to weaken their hold.

Tuesday’s bright spot came out of California, where the state’s 2006 landmark climate legislation (CA AB32) was upheld by voters who either didn’t buy the argument made by Proposition 23 proponents that AB32 would hurt the economy or didn’t take well to out-of-state oil companies telling them what to do. Yet even this “victory” is a mixed bag.

Sure, it’s a relief to see Prop 23 defeated and climate hawks Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom elected as Governor and Lieutenant Governor, respectively.

And the Defeat Prop 23 coalition—a diverse collection of climate activists, environmental nonprofits, unions, clean tech entrepreneurs and businesses, and government agencies—is now well positioned to work together to advance California’s clean energy future.

But at what cost?

More than $31 million in campaign donations, for one. The cost in volunteer and paid organizing efforts is much harder to estimate, but it’s no stretch to say that the countless hours spent campaigning against Proposition 23 could have been put to good use elsewhere.

And therein lies the real story behind this week’s election. Renewable energy advocates and climate change activists should expect to continue to play defense for the foreseeable future.

For one, don’t be surprised when new House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) brings to the floor a bill barring the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide. President Obama has vowed to veto such legislation but the point remains: It’s hard to move the ball forward when all you can do is play defense.

Unfortunately, the clock is ticking and the stakes of this game couldn’t be higher.

Asher Miller is executive director of think tank Post Carbon Institute. Any opinion expressed here is his own.
(4 November 2010)



California exceptionalism or a rising green tide?

Todd Woody, Grist
When you mix red and blue in a state like California, you get green.

Tuesday's landslide defeat of Proposition 23 -- the ballot measure bankrolled by Texas oil companies Tesoro and Valero that would have suspended the state's landmark global-warming law -- marked the emergence of a bipartisan, enviro-business coalition that spanned the demographic divide.

With nearly all ballots counted Wednesday morning, 61.3 percent of voters rejected Prop 23 in the nation's first statewide plebiscite on a climate-change law.

Equally important, voters swept into California's top offices a slate of environmentalists led by Gov.-elect Jerry Brown of Oakland. In what amounts to a takeover of Sacramento by Bay Area deep green Democrats, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was elected lieutenant governor ...

And the passage of Proposition 25, which allows the state legislature to pass a budget with a simple majority rather than a two-thirds vote, should ease the way for the passage of a green agenda.

Voters also threw a spanner in the works on Tuesday when they passed oil industry–backed Proposition 26, which will reclassify certain environmental fees as taxes and require a two-thirds vote of the legislature to impose them. It remains unclear how exactly that will hinder the implementation of AB 32.
(3 November 2010)



Barack Obama's Green Agenda Crushed at the Ballot Box

Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian/UK
With a slew of new climate change deniers entering Congress, Barack Obama's environmental ambitions are now dead
---
Californians decisively rejected a measure to roll back the state's landmark climate change law yesterday, the sole win for environmentalists on a night that crushed Barack Obama's green agenda.

With that lone victory in California, environmentalists managed to keep alive a model for action on climate change, preserving a 2006 law that had set ambitious targets for greenhouse gas reductions and had attracted tens of millions in clean-tech investment.

But many new members of Congress are at best sceptical on climate change, and Republican promises to reduce the role of government could spell the end for progressive energy legislation and could herald a new era of environmental deregulation.

... In Washington, there was only devastation. 2010 is shaping up to be one of the warmest years on record, but that is unlikely to weigh heavily on the minds of many of the Republican newcomers to Congress.

Obama in interviews on the evening of the elections, admitted there was no change of sweeping climate and energy legislation in the remaining two years of his term. He said he hoped to find compromise on "bite-sized" measures, such as encouraging energy efficiency or the use of wind and solar power.

A cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions was the sleeper issue in the mid-term elections, a galvanising force for Tea Party activists.
(3November 2010)



Alberta’s dirty oil image cleaned by U.S. midterms

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press via The Star
OTTAWA—The historic Republican gains in the U.S. midterm elections appear set to clean up Alberta’s American image as a producer of dirty oil.

There is zero chance of new climate change legislation in the United States in the next two years following a vote Tuesday that saw the Democrats lose control in the House of Representatives and suffer significant setbacks in the Senate.

That gives the Harper government some significant breathing space after co-ordinating its environmental efforts with the Obama administration before tabling its own detailed climate change plan.

The biggest winners in Canada after Tuesday night’s U.S. midterms are Alberta’s oil producers — branded by many Democrats as purveyors of “dirty oil.”
(3 November 2010)



Republicans go climate sceptic

Thomas Noyes, The Guardian
One of the most distressing developments of this most distressing political season is the almost complete abandonment of interest in the environment by the Republican party. Opposition to action on climate change – particularly, the once-obscure market mechanism called cap-and-trade – has become one of the principle tenets of the Tea Party movement.
(31 October 2010)

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