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Tue Jan 15, 2013, 10:45 AM

Beyond baby steps: Analyzing the cap-and-trade flop

Beyond baby steps: Analyzing the cap-and-trade flop

By Bill McKibben

Watching the collapse of the effort to create a cap-and-trade plan for carbon emissions in 2009-10 was profoundly depressing. Reading Theda Skocpol’s insightful history isn’t much more fun — but it’s certainly useful, in a Santayana kind of way. Since this is a mistake we can’t afford to repeat (the planet is running out of spare presidential terms and congressional sessions), Skocpol performs a real service by helping figure out what went wrong.

The first thing to be said, I think, is that this behind-the-scenes route was worth a try. Given the stakes, you would think elite players, especially in the business community, would have been willing to make the relatively small and painless changes the cap-and-trade law envisioned. Such inside-the-Beltway lobbying is how most environmental change has come, at least since the decline of the ’70s-era movement that really powered the most important legislation.

But this was too big — there was too much money at stake. The climate issue, it turned out, didn’t fundamentally resemble acid rain after all. The fossil fuel companies, which had spent a lot of money helping erect the hard-right political edifice then near its height in D.C., saw that they didn’t have to give away anything. They could block even this small change for now, and continue to put away truly record profits.

If the inside-the-Beltway groups had been able to turn to a real grassroots activist movement, the outcome might have been different. But that movement didn’t really exist, and many of the big players had only disdain for its embryonic form — they liked talking with corporate honchos more than treehuggers. And so the lobbyists from the green groups were walking naked into the offices of senators, who recognized that they lacked the ability to inflict pain or offer reward. The result was the rout we saw.

- more -

http://grist.org/climate-energy/beyond-baby-steps-analyzing-the-cap-and-trade-flop/


Why the environmental movement couldn’t get cap-and-trade passed

By Philip Bump

The 2010 failure of the Senate to pass cap-and-trade legislation is a scar the environmental movement tries to ignore but can’t stop examining. It sits there, barely healed, still painful — a reminder of the lost promise of a new president and a brief House majority.

Harvard University political scientist Theda Skocpol has released a long, robust assessment of what went wrong in the political fight. It’s a detailed document that analyzes the politics of environmental policy leading up to the fight and in the years following, drawing direct contrast with the push for healthcare reform. Why that effort succeeded — barely — at the same time that cap-and-trade failed is interesting.

Skocpol’s thesis for why cap-and-trade failed can be simplified to a few points: failed organizing efforts by advocates for the policy, an attempt to craft legislation behind closed doors at a moment that demanded transparency, and (of course) massive shifts in public opinion due to the concerted efforts of opponents of action.

It’s that first point that is perhaps the most instructive, if I may betray my prejudices. Skopcol notes that environmental groups shifted focus away from the grassroots after winning key environmental protections. “Once those laws and federal regulatory bureaucracies to enforce them were in place,” she writes, “the DC political opportunity structure shifted — and so did the organization and focus of environmental activism. Big environmental organizations headquartered in Washington DC and New York expanded their professional staffs and became very adept at preparing scientific reports and commentaries to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) onward.”

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http://grist.org/news/why-the-environmental-movement-couldnt-get-cap-and-trade-passed-2/

This is how close climate change legislation came to being passed.

July 2009:
House passes landmark climate change bill
http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/06/26/us-climate-usa-congress-idUSTRE55O4R120090626


September 2009:
Boxer, Kerry Set to Introduce Climate Bill in Senate
http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2009/09/28/28climatewire-boxer-kerry-set-to-introduce-climate-bill-in-43844.html


October 2009:
Kerry-Boxer clean energy bill: Chairman’s mark and EPA analysis released
http://www.grist.org/article/2009-10-23-kerry-boxer-clean-energy-bill-chairmans-mark-and-epa-analysis


November 2009:
Boxer Statement on Committee Passage of S. 1733 – The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act
http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Majority.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=c512ac4d-802a-23ad-4884-2b95a8405efe


Unfortunately, by the time the bill got to the full Senate, it was attacked from all sides. Close = no bill.

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Reply Beyond baby steps: Analyzing the cap-and-trade flop (Original post)
ProSense Jan 2013 OP
ProSense Jan 2013 #1
ProSense Jan 2013 #2
HiPointDem Jan 2013 #3
ProSense Jan 2013 #4
HiPointDem Jan 2013 #5
ProSense Jan 2013 #6
ProSense Jan 2013 #7

Response to ProSense (Original post)

Tue Jan 15, 2013, 11:27 AM

1. Kick! n/t

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Response to ProSense (Original post)

Tue Jan 15, 2013, 03:00 PM

2. Another for

what used to be an important topic.

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Response to ProSense (Original post)

Tue Jan 15, 2013, 03:56 PM

3. because it sucked as environmental policy & was mostly a new financial market for banksters?

 

i'd hope that's why.

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #3)

Tue Jan 15, 2013, 03:57 PM

4. No, that wasn't it. n/t

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Response to ProSense (Reply #4)

Tue Jan 15, 2013, 03:59 PM

5. well, if you say so.

 

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Response to ProSense (Original post)

Tue Jan 15, 2013, 04:19 PM

6. What Theda Skocpol gets right about the cap-and-trade fight

What Theda Skocpol gets right about the cap-and-trade fight

By David Roberts

<...>

Enviros vastly overstated Obama’s agency throughout the process and his responsibility for the outcome. Skocpol exaggerates enviro cluelessness a bit here — I doubt all that many really think they would have won if Obama had just made a few more speeches — but she’s definitely on to something. An amazing amount of the commentary around the bill was devoted to criticizing Obama, or saying what Obama should do, or questioning Obama’s heart. Enviros were constantly “calling on” Obama to say or do this thing or the other. But Obama was not at the center of the action. The dynamics that mattered took place in Congress. Obama did not exactly distinguish himself as a climate champion, but he was a sideshow — he could not have changed the outcome.

On public opinion, cap-and-trade supporters were too concerned with breadth and too little concerned with intensity. An enormous amount of time and money went into national polls and national advertising. National polls tell enviros what they want to hear: In the abstract, majorities always support clean air and clean energy. Enviros mistook these poll results for constituencies. But poll results do not attend town halls or write members of Congress or exhort their fellow citizens through ideological media. Constituencies do that.

<...>

Failure to fight back in the summer of 2009 was a fateful mistake. Just after the Waxman-Markey bill passed the House, summer arrived, legislators went home, and enviros cracked a beer and put their feet up. Meanwhile, a well-funded, well-organized Tea Party invaded town halls, dominated talk radio and Fox News, and generally scared the bejesus out of Republican legislators. They bashed on “cap-and-tax” for months, with very little pushback. By the time the Senate returned to consider the bill, members had learned their lesson.

The previous three can be summarized as a fourth:

Enviros were slow to perceive and understand the accelerating radicalization of the Republican Party. The USCAP strategy was based on securing the support — or at least defusing the opposition — of key business constituencies. The presumption was that the GOP is the party of business and would follow the lead of key corporate constituents.

- more -

http://grist.org/climate-energy/what-theda-skocpol-gets-right-about-the-cap-and-trade-fight/

Virginia Waters Down Report On Impacts Of Climate Change After Tea Party Complaints
http://www.democraticunderground.com/10022195071


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Response to ProSense (Original post)

Wed Jan 16, 2013, 11:11 AM

7. Why has climate legislation failed? An interview with Theda Skocpol.

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