This is a pivotal week in the clean energy debate. The Senate will vote on Murkowski's short-sighted resolution to take away the EPA's authority to regulate pollution. As we head into this critical time, it's not the Inhofe-cloned climate deniers who trouble me – it's the knowing bystanders who are keeping me up at night.
Before I start this rant, let me just state for the record that I still think deniers are about as accurate as my three year old is when she is trying to describe quantum physics at her make-believe tea parties (although they are wholly less adorable). The vast majority of these deniers resist climate legislation because they really don't believe global warming is a problem – yes their heads are in the sand. But for the purposes of the Murkowski resolution, their vote is already lost.
Lately I am even more frustrated with Senators who recognize that climate change is an urgent challenge, but who sit idly by on the sidelines doing nothing. For me, they raise the fundamental question – Who is worse – those that deny the existence of climate change or those that believe in the upcoming catastrophe and continue to lack focus or alarm?
Take Senator Schumer for example. He has stated that he thinks the Senate should confront the impacts of climate change. Yet just this week, when leaders should be pushing hard for climate action, Schumer's support has been tepid at best. On Morning Joe, he showered Senator Bingaman's energy-only bill with praise, then said, “What do you do about climate change? Kerry has a proposal that has pretty broad support…He is going to get a chance to offer that opinion, and we will see if it has the votes.”
We are looking for more from our Leaders than a passive wait and see attitude. Senator Schumer is the third ranking Democrat, and that means he needs to do more than wait around to cast a vote. It's time for real leadership, which means rolling up his sleeves and making sure a bill passes. We need him in the trenches. In fairness, the Senator walked himself back a bit after people threw a fit over his Morning Joe ambivalence. He has pledged to meet with Senator Kerry on a path forward but until he demands action and puts him ample political muscle behind that call, I am skeptical.
Exhibit #2 is Senator Rockefeller. As a Senator from West Virginia, he wants the federal government to do a better job of regulating mine safety, especially after the horrifying disaster at the Massey coalmine. I applaud him for that stance, but here is where I get confused. When it comes to global warming–something Rockefeller says, “America must address”–he suddenly gets allergic to federal regulation. He wants the Senate to block the EPA from reducing global warming pollution until Congress gets it's act together. The federal government can and should be involved – today. Just as federal regulation needs to be strengthened to deal with mine safety, we need to let the regulators use the tools on the books begin addressing greenhouse gases.
And finally, the fence sitters continue to be the best example of willful negligence. The Senate is going to consider a resolution this week from Senator Murkowski to put the breaks on EPA's efforts to address greenhouse gases. There is a small group of Senators – like Collins, Snowe, Pryor, Webb, and Scott Brown – who say they want to reduce global warming pollution but may vote for Murkowski's resolution to overturn the EPA's authority to do so. If you think carbon emissions are dangerous, wouldn't you want to use every weapon at your disposal to fight it?
When I see Senators backpedalling, downplaying and side stepping climate action, I want to ask them: what are you waiting for? When is there going to be a better time to transition to clean energy? America is watching the cost of failed energy policies literally washing up on our shores. Our nation is desperately in need of the jobs and economic growth that a clean energy economy can provide. Congress has the most pro-clean energy members we are likely to get for several years.
I think I just answered my own question – which is worse, a climate-denier or a knowledgeable staller…. I vote that someone who fails to act when they know the stakes is much worse.