Election 2010: What it Means for the Climate, Clean Energy and all Things Green

The results from the 2010 midterm elections are just about all in, and surprises are few and far between. As expected, the GOP swept back into power in the House of Representatives, taking at least 60 seats so far. John Boehner will be the new Speaker of the House. Democrats hung onto the Senate, with Majority Leader Harry Reid surviving a close contest against a Tea Party favorite. But you already know all this from having read any given newspaper's front page, seen any blaring cable news show, or generally having been within a 200 miles of any American media outlet in existence. The real question is, what's the impact going to be on climate, clean energy, and other green issues?


To be blunt: It's not going to be good. At all. Besides a few silver linings here and there, the results paint a pretty grim outlook for the prospect of making any real progress in terms of meaningful energy legislation -- we can expect to be stuck firmly in the mud, wheels spinning, for years to come on clean energy and climate policy.

An Anti-Climate Congress

This is because the current crop of GOP politicians have adopted a somewhat united ideological front opposing not only climate legislation, but the general notion of climate science itself. Nowhere else in the world has a leading political party availed itself of a position so directly in opposition to science -- indeed, today's GOP is the only party in the world that incorporates climate change denial as part of its political platform.

Furthermore, the Tea Partiers responsible for sweeping many of the new politicians into power are vocal in their belief that no policy should be adopted to address climate change or clean energy generation -- most are skeptical that global warming is occurring at all. This means those elected officials will likely ignore or oppose clean energy or climate action, and will suffer no political consequences for doing so -- in fact, in our upside-down cultural climate, they may even be rewarded for vocal opposition by those galvanized voters who think cap and trade is a useless tax, Al Gore is a conspirator behind a globe-spanning hoax, and that scientists are colluding to deceive the public about climate change.

Plan of Attack

But it gets worse. The GOP has already announced plans to attack the EPA for its plans to reign in the nation's biggest polluters' carbon emissions and to try to stop it from regulating things like mountaintop removal mining so ardently. Republican leadership has also announced plans to launch an investigation into climate scientists for their alleged involvement in the long-debunked climate gate event.

Now that it's firmly in power, expect it to make good on those plans. In addition to the above, the GOP plans to turn the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming into a farce -- literally. The committee, formerly run by the environmental advocate (and climate bill co-author) Ed Markey, may be taken over by Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a climate skeptic, who will use the office to extract "sweet revenge", according to Politico. He wants to keep the global warming committee alive to attempt to prove that global warming doesn't exist, and to "police Obama's green policies."

Goin' on a Witch Hunt?

But he's not the only one: GOP Rep. Issa of California plans on using his position as chairman of the Oversight Committee to make launching more investigations into the already-exonerated climate scientists whose emails were hacked into a "top priority".

You're probably getting the picture: This is a Congress that is not only opposed to forging clean energy and climate solutions, but one that is openly hostile to the basic concepts in the first place. It will be extremely difficult for any important initiatives to gain traction in this kind of a political climate -- even if Obama tries to push green policies through in small "chunks" as he hinted he would, he may face strident opposition.

The Good News?

Yes, there is nonetheless some good news: Namely, that California voters struck down the big oil-funded Prop 23 that would have overturned the state's climate law -- and they struck it down resoundingly. In fact, the best lesson to be learned from this election, from a climate politics perspective, is that good, concerted, effective campaigning for clean energy can be a true political winner.

The three major victors in California this election -- Jerry Brown (governor), Barbara Boxer (senator), and the "No on 23" campaign -- all focused on climate and clean energy issues to generate a groundswell of popular support, instead of running away from the issue (I delved deeper into that notion earlier today: Climate & Clean Energy Can Win Elections). It's a model that can be looked to in the future to combat the rising tide of political opposition to expanding clean energy and taking climate action. And let's face it: We're going to need all the help we can get.

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