Wednesday, January 27, 2010

If Republicans Have Bad or No Ideas For Solving Our Climate Change and Oil Addiction Problems, is Bipartisanship a Waste of Time?

I'm a registered independent who votes based on the quality and likely success of policy proposals for effectively solving our nation's problems.  Ideally, I'd have two (or more) viable parties with good ideas from which to select the best policy proposals.

Unfortunately, the state of the Republican party in America has been so out of step with the best science on climate change, and has produced so many policy disasters over the last 25 years, that I'm unfortunately left with one party to choose from, and their ideas are anything but ideal.  Their lack of spine for implementing what good ideas they do have is even worse.

This sad state of the politics of problem solving in American government is conveyed by this N.Y. Times article, titled "Climate Bill Advocates Back off Cap-And-Trade".    The article quotes Senator Graham (R-SC) as saying this is what's required to pass climate change and clean energy legislation through the Senate:

Mr. Graham’s opinion matters because he has been the only Republican willing to work with Democratic senators on some form of climate change legislation. He said that the price of attracting Republican and business support was to use the legislation to provide incentives for building nuclear power plants, stepped-up domestic oil and gas exploration and subsidies for reducing carbon dioxide emissions from coal.

So essentially, the price of Republican participation in passing climate change and clean energy legislation is ignoring the advice of our best scientists (e.g., that failing to deal with climate change will only make solutions much more expensive) and our own Dept of Energy's Energy Information Administration (that domestic oil drilling is not a realistic means of preventing our next economically catastrophic energy crisis) and watering down good ideas with ineffectual ones (e.g., there is no such thing as "clean coal").  The centerpiece of Republican climate and energy solutions -- Nuclear Power -- is an energy source that Amory Lovins' Rocky Mountain Institute says we should "forget" due to its high cost, long construction times, and financial risks (not to mention health risks).

This means that the result of bipartisanship will be to significantly decrease the effectiveness of the legislation for achieving its goals of combating climate change and fostering energy independence.  If that's the case, why bother?

If scientists told you that your drinking water needed to contain less than 5 parts per million of some radioactive element to avoid certain thyroid cancer, and Republicans -- claiming that cutting concentrations to those levels would be too expensive and would harm industry -- proposed 100 parts per million, would you drink water with a "compromise" level of 50 parts per million of that radioactive element?

I didn't think so.

That's essentially what bipartisanship is achieving right now.  Policy that isn't good for you, me or the country as far as realistically solving our most pressing problems.  We need better.

Until Republicans can come up with some good policy proposals with a realistic chance of success (and I hope they do -- the more good ideas we have to choose from the better), bipartisanship is typically a waste of time and, even worse, a waste of our hard-earned tax dollars.

I really hope this sad state of affairs changes -- the sooner the better!

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