Green Politics

How will the midterm election results, climate change “debate,” and trends in renewable energy affect the 2016 election?

In the aftermath of the Republican capture of Congress, several events bear watching, especially as eyes turn toward 2016 and the presidential and senatorial races.

To start off, there is the elevation of the Senate’s chief climate change denier, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who’s preparing to chair (for the second time) the committee that deals with global warming—the Environment and Public Works committee. Author of the book “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future,” this in-your-face politician has not wavered in his views. And no amount of facts can make any difference, as CNN’s Jake Tapper found out recently. How much undoing of recent environmental progress (see the EPA’s proposed rule for slashing carbon emissions from coal plants and President Obama’s recent meeting with China’s president, Xi Jinping) will the Senator accomplish?

Clashing with Inhofe’s view of global warming are the facts about the increasing acceptance of green energy by the American public. A recent Deutsche Bank study found that by 2016, in most states solar energy will be “as cheap or cheaper than average electricity bill prices,” reports Tom Randall for Bloomberg. Add to that the dramatic increase in centralized wind power in Iowa, Texas and other states, mix in the jobs that go along with building the infrastructure, and you have red states that don’t buy into the “global warming conspiracy” theory. These states have learned that green power is also about the color of money. (And oh, by the way, how is any politician going to campaign against energy tax credits in these states that love them so much? Stay tuned for a lot of backtracking.)

Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday rejected the Keystone XL pipeline extension, “leaving the $8 billion pipeline still on the table for the ascendant Republican Party to push the project to President Barack Obama’s desk in January,” writes Elana Schor for Politico. But as the oil market continues its months-long collapse, with the price per barrel of crude dropping into the seventy-dollar range, squeezing crude from Canada’s tar sands becomes even less profitable. America is awash in oil. (“In the U.S., hydraulic fracturing has unleashed a torrent of new crude that is flooding the market, reports Russell Gold for The Wall Street Journal.) Why do we need more from Canada? Keep in mind that, as Jeff Brady and Scott Horsley report for NPR, “producing crude from oil sands emits an estimated 17 percent more greenhouse gases than traditional oil drilling in the U.S.”

A final thought: When will certain media begin treating climate change as the threat it represents instead of insisting on “fair and balanced” reporting in this regard? We all know what road good intentions takes us on. Peter Dystra’s excellent election eve piece points out the false equivalences still rampant in climate journalism from people who should know better. If a real discussion of the future of the planet is to take place between now and the 2016 election, reporters are going to have become journalists. One can hope. Perhaps we might even get a question or two about climate change into the debates, and maybe even a follow-up. (Wolf: are you listening?)

Of course, if that happens, someone is bound to write a book calling it all another green conspiracy. Wink, wink.

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About Ira Flatow

Ira Flatow is the host and executive producer of Science FridayHis green thumb has revived many an office plant at death’s door.