Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Climate Change and Clean Energy Next? (Or Wait Until It Gets Really Hot?)

Now that a Historic, yet still inadequate Health Insurance Reform bill has passed Congress (incomplete because premium cost controls still need to be strengthened, as Senator Feinstein is trying to do, and as competition from a fairly-priced Public Plan would do), people are starting to talk about passing climate change and clean energy legislation.

David Roberts penned a good one here.

I personally think that the Senate should strategically wait until the weather gets a bit warmer, and the painful Memorial Day weekend gas price spike is felt across America, before taking up the legislation.  It's silly, but it's smart. People are more likely to support the legislation if they're sweating and gas prices are rising, which they will be in June and July.

I also like Joe Romm's new piece a lot, especially the parts about messaging -- on both health care and climate/energy.  Says Romm:
No serious messaging strategy can possibly be built around the phrase “healthcare reform.”  Why?  First, “reform” is a process, not an outcome.  No one serious about moving public opinion talks about process over and over again.  They talk about the benefits that reform brings, outcomes the public cares about.  Second, most of the public likes their healthcare, so the phrase “healthcare reform” is not intrinsically positive and, in fact, is probably negative for much of the public given the more effective conservative messaging.
If you spend half your scarce messaging time talking about “healthcare reform,” while your opponent spends all of their time messaging on negative outcomes that the public worries about, you are fighting with one hand tied behind your back.
Here's a quiz:
1)  What’s worse from a messaging perspective, “the public option” or “cap-and-trade”?  Hint:  Both are process.
2)  Tell me in one sentence what team Obama says is the benefit of passing a health care reform bill.
3)  Tell me in one sentence what team Obama says happens if we fail to pass the climate and clean energy bill.
On health care, no simple, repeated core message exists, so the whole effort is a muddle.
Like the 99% of people who aren’t expert on health care reform, only very recently — 12 months too late — have I begun to develop a clear idea of what this plan is or what it would actually do.  The problem is, many if not most people could probably care less about the uninsured — they just don’t want to join that group — and while people may say they want cost containment, in fact they don’t want their own costs “contained,” they only want their premiums lower.  They do want security about their healthcare.
Again, the single phrase that the Democrats repeat most often is “healthcare reform” whereas the single phrase that Republicans repeat most often is “government takeover.”  Is it any surprise the polling on this bill is so bad?
That's certainly a thought-provoking analysis.  Romm thinks Health Care Security would have been a much better frame for messaging, and I agree.  Here's what he proposes:
A vote for this bill is a vote for healthcare security.  You get to keep your healthcare coverage if you like what you have — and they can’t throw you off of it if you get some expensive disease or get fired.  And you get access to health care coverage if you don’t have it, and they can’t keep it away from you if you have a pre-existing condition.  And this bill keeps whatever healthcare you have or get affordable, so you don’t have to compromise your health to pay for other necessities.
Fortunately, we're doing better on climate change and clean energy, and there's far more bi-partisan support for passage of a strong bill, even if it tends to be for different reasons for Democrats (environmental, health reasons, green jobs) than for Republicans (economic, security reasons).

But we're going to have to leverage the types of lessons Romm emphasizes above to convey to Americans why our lives will be much better once Congress passes this legislation and President Obama signs it.

With Peak Oil also looming bigger and bigger (second link) right around the corner in 2014, you don't even need to think about climate change to realize that if we're to have a robust economic recovery that is also resilient, we've got to get our asses in gear on weaning America off of our dangerous dependence on oil.

It's a wonderful thing when environmental, economic, energy, security and health care solutions of this magnitude are all linked.  Now let's emphasize these linkages and pass bold climate change and clean energy legislation.  It will help unleash the Glacial Lake Missoula-level flood of pubic and private investment needed to transition America to a more secure, robust, and stable clean energy-powered economy.

1 comment:

  1. Consider the Connection to:
    The Economic Pyramid

    Our economy rest on a base of natural resources, we CAN NOT remove the top from the
    Conservation is the wise-use, management, and development of the Earths natural resourses, including the wise-use of CONSUMER
    (TAXPAYER) money.
    Conservation is needed at all levels of the
    Economic Pyramid.
    We CAN NOT afford to hace a NEGATIVE attitude about that.
    Our economy, health, & planet are in the balance!!!
    www.facebook.com Jerry Lee Mayeux WALL-PROFILE-INFO-PHOTOS