One interesting phenomenon of the 2012 race has been the disappearance of global warming as a campaign issue. Not surprising among the Republicans, but not even President Obama is talking about it.
When President Obama was running during more flush economic times, he promised to raise everyone’s power bill in order to save the planet. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board on January 17, 2008, President Obama stated that, “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” Any such utterance today would be political suicide.
Even this year’s worldwide confab of climate change zealots and anti-growth fanatics in Durban, South Africa is very low key. Representing the U.S. at the conference is Todd Stern, the State Department Special Envoy for Climate Change (Todd Stern is an able public servant — they should give him a job where his talents could be put to good use), and Jonathan Pershing, the Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change. Expect a dry written statement from the Obama administration, with empty phrases like “progress made” or “a deepened understanding among nations is developing.”
Since the last election, the science surrounding global climate change has been tainted by scandal, while economic realities have become all too clear. We need an environmental policy that is no longer connected to global weather maintenance. Pursuing the global remedies that the left wants includes giving money to other countries and raising American families’ power bills. We can’t transfer green technology money to Solyndra, much less to foreign countries.
But maybe there is a legitimate change of course that could be incorporated into campaign 2012 debate and benefit the U.S. and the environment everywhere. I wish the Republican campaign included an environmental policy acknowledging that we need diplomatic initiatives that include how we keep the oceans clean, reduce cross-border air pollution, and the use and disposal of dangerous chemicals, etc. Republicans should have an affirmative environmental agenda that doesn’t just celebrate the collapse of the global warming crusade.
However, some environmental issues need to be approached diplomatically. The modern era of globalization affects many environmental issues: Every country has a role to play, and there must be a level playing field. America doesn’t lead by unilaterally raising our cost of energy. And by the way, many of our unilateral actions, especially EPA regulations on power plants and manufacturing, are counterproductive unless the rest of the world does the same.
Speaking of energy prices, I keep mentioning this, because I think it is an important issue politically, and it’s underreported – and that is gasoline prices. Today, oil is $110.07 per barrel vs. $82.83 per barrel a year ago, and the average gasoline price is $3.368 per gallon today vs. $2.876 per gallon a year ago. Higher gasoline prices suck cash out of the economy, with real political consequence that are worse for President Obama than for anyone else. I’ve never heard him say if he wants gasoline prices to be lower, or if he has a plan to lower gasoline prices. But if he stays with the old orthodoxy that higher energy prices are desirable because it will make people use less energy, he will pay a price in the election next November.