Ups and Downs After Midterms for Environmentalists

note: Sustain Mizzou is a non-partisan 501 (c) 3 non-profit. We do not endorse any political party, candidates, or policy. Opinions of Footprint writers do not necessarily reflect those of Sustain Mizzou.


By Paul Rolfe

Environmental advocates may be feeling a paler shade of green after the mid-term elections.  There were some big wins — and some big losses. Tree huggers are celebrating the failure of Prop 23 in California — keeping the state’s climate change law and renewable energy requirements intact — but CNBC reports that things aren’t so bright on the federal level.

“One other thing with the GOP takeover in the House, it is unlikely there will be any sort of greenhouse gas / carbon cap and trade coming at a federal level. If we look in California, this is why so many green advocates and analysts have been looking at Prop 23.”

Business Green says climate change will slip further down the agenda, with the budget deficit and healthcare reforms expected to become the main focus for Republican in Congress. Grist’s Christopher Mims put it most comically when he said:

“If you’re a person in favor of action on climate and clean energy — in other words, a climate hawk — you’d be forgiven for thinking that now is a good time to pop a Glock in your mouth and make a brain slushy.”

California had the most environmental success of any state with 61.4% of votes against Prop 23 and green-friendly candidates swept almost every major state office (including Gov. Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Sen. Barbara Boxer). But Grist’s Todd Woody, asks — is California the exception or the beginning of a trend?

“Tuesday’s landslide defeat of Proposition 23 … marked the emergence of a bipartisan, enviro-business coalition that spanned the demographic divide. Clearly, many in the No on 23 coalition see the defeat of the ballot measure as the beginning, not the end, of a much larger campaign.”

The national campaign is the next step for the No-on-23 coalition — an unusual union of environmental groups, Silicon Valley tech giants, and even hedge fund managers. Former White House Environmental Adviser Van Jones points to Mr. Obama’s focus on clean energy jobs as a strong rallying cry. He gave some good numbers, that really demonstrate the power of job creation that clean energy has.

“Clean energy for instance, We have 80,000 people that are going to work everyday in the wind industry. That’s as many people as we have in the coal mining industry right now. We have 46,000 jobs supported in the solar industry. There are 3,600 renewable energy companies across America that have benefited from [Obama’s] tax policies.”

The Guardian says many new members of Congress are at best skeptical 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. But even though climate deniers won in the elections, a commanding percentage of the public still supports clean energy and climate legislation.

“…the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reported that 87 percent of Americans favor legislation that would require utilities to generate more electricity from renewable sources, such as solar and wind. And 78 percent favor tougher energy efficiency standards.”

President Obama admitted in his speech Wednesday morning that legislative action on climate change is going to be more difficult now that Republicans have control of the House. He’s still hopeful about climate legislation passing in chunks, but hinted the EPA may be the best chance for reducing greenhouse gases and promoting clean energy.

“The EPA is under a court order that says greenhouse gases are a pollutant that fall under their jurisdiction… Cap and Trade was just one way of skinning the cat, not the only way. It was a means, not an end. And I’m going to be looking for other means to solve this problem. And I think the EPA wants help from the legislature on this.”

In sum, things could have gone better for the environmental advocates, but we still have some hope left going through other avenues of change.


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