Saturday, June 28, 2008

Environmentalism is a luxury

Along with nerves and bank accounts, the environmental movement is due for a shock over the dawning reality of continued oil shortages. Robert Tracinski documents the sudden reality check that the Left is experiencing, most recently with the failure of a Senate cap and trade bill sponsored by democrats:
Since the Florida primary, when John McCain decisively pulled ahead and became the presumptive Republican nominee, I have argued
that the passage of some kind of "cap-and-trade" energy rationing scheme is inevitable. Since both McCain and Obama are firm supporters of cap-and-trade, we know that when Congress convenes next year, the new president will ask it to pass the legislation.

But it turns out that cap-and-trade, like Hillary Clinton, might not be inevitable after all.

A few weeks ago, the Senate refused to allow a version of cap-and-trade to come to a vote. The legislation was not expected to overcome a presidential veto, but the vote was supposed to serve as a show of strength by cap-and-trade advocates. The show of strength wasn't very strong. Only 48 senators voted to allow the bill to proceed, far short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster. Even that number is deceptively high, because ten of the 48 votes were cast by Democrats who oppose cap-and-trade. They flipped their votes only after they knew the legislation would not go forward, in order to save the Democratic leadership from the embarrassment of having the bill fail by a 46-38 vote against it.

Since then, while legislative momentum has stalled on passing "cap-and-trade," momentum is growing to lift restrictions on offshore oil drilling and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The policy now being advocated by many politicians, including McCain, is the exact opposite of cap-and-trade: drill-and-burn.

It seems that the first time Americans begin to experience anything like the economic consequences of global warming regulations -- $4-per-gallon gasoline is just a down payment on the green agenda -- they begin to have second thoughts about whether they really want to reduce their carbon footprints.

Can it really be that easy to defeat cap-and-trade-just to point out, "Hey, this will raise the price of gasoline"? Why does this argument work?

Invoking high gasoline prices works, not just because of the immediate pain it inflicts on politicians' constituents, but because it exploits a fundamental contradiction at the foundation of the current "green" fad.

The contradiction behind the green lifestyle fad is the idea that we can reject industrial civilization -- and the fuel that powers it -- while still enjoying a modern, prosperous, "First World" standard of living.

The more shallow followers of the green fad get around this contradiction through "greenwashing": finding a superficial "green" angle to rationalize buying expensive goods and living pretty much the same opulent lifestyle they enjoyed before. My favorite example is a magazine article on "green" houses that advocated buying more expensive, nicer-looking "architectural grade" asphalt roof shingles, because they won't have to be replaced as often and will therefore -- if you can follow this chain of reasoning -- use less resources over the long run. Maybe so, maybe not. But it gives well-off, upper-middle-class types an excuse not to feel guilty about telling the roofer to go with the upgrade.


If John McCain were a smart politician, and I've yet to be convinced that he is, he would reverse himself on cap and trade just as he has done on offshore oil drilling, leaving Obama and the Democrats to explain to their working class constituents why they have to bear the crushing burden of skyrocketing fuel bills in order to preserve the scenic ocean vistas and ecological values of globetrotting Democratic elites. The cracks in the environmental movement are beginning to show. Even in tourist worshipping Florida, the middle class is getting tired of offshore drilling bans.

It will be preciously ironic if, in the moment of their seeming ascendance into political hegemony, the Democrats are undone by a revolt of the working class masses that cedes ultimate political victory to a new breed of political animal, the WalMart Republican.

1 Comments:

Blogger Harry Eagar said...

$4 gasoline ain't nothing. People can often contrive to drive less.

$4 a gallon home heating oil, though, is going to be an issue, especially in the Northeast but also into the South and Midwest.

I would not like to be the incumbent party when voters start wondering whether they can heat their homes this winter.

The voters will be praying for global warming.

McCain might as well go fishing. If the financial markets haven't crashed by October, the unemployment rate and the price of fuel will do the same job for him.

June 28, 2008 8:03 PM  

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