06 August 2010
For years, environmental activists have pushed state and federal officials to enact costly, far-reaching policies to combat global warming. They’ve run ad campaigns and endorsed politicians. They’ve attacked the reputation of scientists who don’t agree with their alarmism about climate change. They’ve produced books, websites, videos, even Hollywood movies to push their agenda.
And they’ve failed.
In Washington, Senate Democrats have just decided not to move a “cap and trade” bill designed to change the structure of energy production in the United States by raising the price of fossil fuels. They couldn’t muster enough votes, despite their large majority, to pass the unpopular bill.
In Raleigh, legislative Democrats created a commission back in 2005 to propose state laws and policies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from North Carolina households and businesses. The commission has just disbanded without recommending any major initiatives.
Why have the alarmists’ efforts achieved so little? (Because they're wrong -- Peter)They offer a multitude of handy explanations, most of them based on crackpot conspiracy theories involving oil companies, real-estate interests, the Religious Right, and water-breathing space aliens set on melting the polar icecap as a prelude to colonizing the Earth’s oceans.
Okay, so I made that last part up, but it’s not much of an exaggeration of the absurdity of their allegations.
There’s no need for elaborate explanation. A straightforward one will do. Voters are properly skeptical about any energy policy promising to make their lives better by raising the cost of driving their cars, heating their homes, buying their groceries, and operating their businesses. No amount of environmental propaganda has been able to replace their skepticism with credulousness.
In the midst of a painful recession, with North Carolina’s jobless rate remaining in double digits for more than two years now, the idea of using government regulations or taxes to raise the cost of energy has little support. Not only would such policies impose additional hardships on households, but they would also make North Carolina less competitive for new or expanding industry – while accomplishing precisely nothing even if the goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions was a reasonable one, since North Carolina’s share of global emissions is negligible.
If the state’s last energy bill, a renewable-portfolio standard enacted in 2007, had been on the ballot rather than on the floor of the General Assembly, North Carolinians would likely have given it an overwhelming thumbs-down. They have never thought their utility bills were too low.
More generally, the voters have shown themselves to have more common sense than the alarmists anticipated. Offered pie-in-the-sky forecasts of green-job creation and long-term savings from expensive alternative-fuel subsidies, voters have come to doubt them. Promised that past environmental regulations would impose costs mostly on “business,” voters have rightly concluded that they bear most of those higher costs as employees and consumers – and that the costs of regulations usually prove to be far higher than promised.
Treated to copious news coverage of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, voters have concluded that stringent safety requirements need to be enacted and enforced – not that American oil exploration is a bad idea.
And subjected to years of attempted indoctrination about the risks of catastrophic global warming, voters have concluded that scientists should continue to research the issue and study promising new technologies – not that Congress or state legislatures should immediately pass laws wreaking havoc on an already weakened economy and mandating fundamental changes in the way we live, work, shop, and travel.
The alarmists’ cause has taken additional hits of late, including the disclosure of emails from climate scientists that laid bare their contempt for the peer-review process and their unwillingness to comply with public-records laws. Do these scandals tell us anything about the wisdom of adopting public policies on climate change? Not really. But they further weakened the credibility of those calling for such policies.
The public’s priorities are clear at the moment: address the serious fiscal and economic problems facing North Carolina and the nation. Climate-change legislation would worsen them. So it’s going nowhere.