NH GOP Splinters in Climate Fight

April 7th, 2011 at 5:24 pm | 18 Comments |

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Andrew Jackson once noted that one man with courage makes a majority. In New Hampshire, one woman could do the same.

Republican State Senator Nancy Stiles is fighting to preserve New Hampshire’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate effort to cut down on carbon emissions. Since joining RGGI in 2008, New Hampshire has become a model of energy efficiency in the Northeast: according to RGGI.org, proceeds from the initiative “are projected to reduce consumer energy costs by $60.6 million over the lifetime of the installed measures.”

However, last week the Republican-led New Hampshire House voted to abandon its commitment to RGGI, due to what one Republican legislator called the “shaky climate science” that supposedly led New Hampshire to join the effort. In other words, because some members of the New Hampshire House want to pretend scientific facts don’t exist, the entire state must suffer.

Luckily, Sen. Stiles isn’t willing to throw away New Hampshire’s commitment to fighting carbon pollution. She says she prefers to revise certain RGGI requirements rather than walk away from them. It’s a common-sense statement—but considering the political environment she’s in, it’s one that requires tremendous courage.

Already, a libertarian outfit plans to apply pressure on the state Senate by running ads labeling RGGI a “cap and trade scheme.” The folks who put these ads together seem to have forgotten that it was a Republican, C. Boyden Gray, who originally came up with cap-and-trade as a means of limiting sulfur dioxide emissions. The “scheme” worked to reduce pollution then, and what these libertarians call a “scheme” is working now for the people of New Hampshire. That’s a truth Sen. Stiles recognizes.

What we are seeing in New Hampshire is a proverbial conflict of visions, a fight between an old-school Republican who remains true to the party’s wrongfully abandoned conservationist legacy and new-school Republicans who believe private industries have a divine right to pollute. This fight pits sensible conservatism against misguided libertarianism—and sensible conservatism has to win.

As New Hampshire resident Jim Grady recently noted, “What RGGI’s cap-and-trade revenue generation actually amounts to is a tiny tax on all — with all getting the benefit. The RGGI law requires the majority of its revenue to be invested back into our state to help reduce aggregate demand for electricity. This works for all of us because the price of electricity tends to decrease when we decrease our need for it.” Sounds pretty reasonable, no?

Sen. Stiles is behaving with absolute moral courage in her effort to maintain New Hampshire’s involvement in RGGI. She recognizes that the initiative is, if not perfect, than the least imperfect way to address the threat posed by excessive carbon emissions. She understands that caving in to the demands of hardcore libertarians could have catastrophic effects decades from now. She sees that the push for “limited government” ought not to be a suicide pact.

Yes, the opponents of RGGI believe that New Hampshire must abandon this commitment in the name of “limited government.” I respect their passion, but they are passionately wrong. Sometimes, government can be too limited—so limited that it doesn’t take necessary action to protect the health of human beings and the environment in which they live, so limited that it doesn’t make the strategic investments to benefit the economy, so limited that it ignores clear and present dangers to our ecology.

Sen. Stiles is cut from that old-school Republican cloth, the kind Teddy Roosevelt was cut from. It’s a vision that says capitalism cannot function if the capitalist doesn’t have clean air to breathe. It’s a vision that says no industry has a constitutional right to pollute. It’s a vision that is, in the truest and purest sense of the word, pro-life.

I have no idea which side will win in New Hampshire. The new-school vision—the one that rejects climate science as some vast left-wing conspiracy, the one that turns a blind eye to the dangers of pollution, the one that spits upon those who believe that conservation is conservative—is prosperous, pugnacious and powerful. Yet it is not right, not on this issue.

Best of luck to Sen. Stiles in her fight—and give me that old-school vision any day of the week.


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18 Comments so far ↓

  • Nanotek

    Good for Senator Nancy Stiles. Unfortunately, she’ll probably learn how vicious conservative correctness can be, especially when they eat their own

    Can a conservative free marketeer explain how allowing companies to pollute the commons with their industrial waste, rather than paying for its safe disposal as a part of doing business, comports with free market principles?

  • armstp

    This is important!

    Wholesale Solar Energy Costs Rivalling Coal

    Bloomberg reports that wholesale solar energy costs are falling 8% a year and may already rival coal in sunny climes like the Middle East and Japan. They’re expected to be halved in the next decade.

    Bloomberg writes, “Installation of solar PV systems will almost double to 32.6 gigawatts by 2013 from 18.6 gigawatts last year, New Energy Finance estimates.”

    The Fukushima Nuclear Plant produced 4.7 gigawatts. However, it produced them at an extremely high cost if you factor in what it has done to the Japanese economy this year. India just stopped imports of Japanese fish, which is an extreme reaction but likely to be all too typical.

    Japan has already made important advances in solar research and likely there will be new government and private sector funding for solar R & D in that country– which will help us all.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-04-05/solar-energy-costs-may-already-rival-coal-spurring-installation-boom.html

    • cdorsen

      armstp:
      “and may already rival coal in sunny climes like the Middle East and Japan.”

      Not to be nitpicky, but has the author ever been to Japan? I lived there and Korea (very similar climatically to Honshu – Main Island Japan) for 2 years. And, if there is one thing Japan isn’t, especially in the summer, it’s sunny. Tokyo averages about 60in. of rainfall a year. Seattle gets about 40in. to put that in perspective. So, I have to call into question any article that has the above phrase.

  • armstp

    .
    .
    .

    Green Energy in 20-40 Years?

    All the power the world needs could be provided by alternative energy sources within 20-40 years if the political will could be found, according to Stanford researchers. Note that they do not include nuclear energy in their calculations.

    Part of their technique is to include ‘externalities’ of hydrocarbon fuels in their cost estimates, such as health costs of pollution.

    http://news.stanford.edu/news/2011/january/jacobson-world-energy-012611.html

  • Fastball

    Well done. The third to last paragraph, that environmental stewardship is pro-life in the purest and fullest sense of the idea, is brilliant.

  • talkradiosucks.com

    Great article, nice to see you contributing here D.R. :)

  • rbottoms

    Yes, GOP is full of idiots. Did you also know water is wet?

    There is no such thing as a moderate Republican because the Neanderthals outnumber them by a wide margin so any rational debate is an exercise in futility.

  • talkradiosucks.com

    “Yes, GOP is full of idiots.”

    Sort of like the Democratic party.

    “…any rational debate is an exercise in futility.”

    Says the guy whose every single post consists solely of mindless Republican bashing. Yes, you’re sure showing them how to do it.

  • TerryF98

    Great to see that there are still some Republicans who have standards and principles that they will not cast aside. We need a lot more.

    Nicely written piece. More please.

  • valkayec

    Yesterday, I read an article on the NH RGGI and the GOP assault on it. What is not mentioned in this article is that thousands of jobs have been created as a result of RGGI which has lowered the state’s unemployment rates as well as significantly lowered the state’s energy costs. Why the article stuck in my mind is because I simply could not understand why the NH GOP wanted to get rid of something that actually lowered costs and created thousands of jobs, especially for an ideology. That doesn’t sound very conservative to me. Also, it caused me to wonder if Koch and gang were responsible in some way.

    Speaking of Koch brings me to another point I don’t understand regarding those who claim to be libertarians. Libertarians claim to prize private property rights almost above anything else. Yet, “polluting the environment” in actuality pollutes surrounding private property, making it less valuable and/or usable. Even polluting the commons such as has happened to many of the rivers and steams along the Mississippi reduces the value of the adjacent private property and destroys private businesses.

    So if private property rights are inviolate to libertarians, why should one organization be allowed violate the private property rights of another? For example, if my neighbor dumps gallons of used oil on my lawn, he violates my personal property rights. But if an organization dumps massive amounts of chemicals into a nearby river or expels huge amounts of toxic chemicals into the air above my property, less thus lessening its value, libertarians apparently don’t see the obvious contradiction.

    I’ve had some pretty intense arguments with libertarians who regard private property rights and personal freedoms (or liberties) as their most sacred doctrines. Yet, they never quite were able to explain how their rights and freedoms to do as they wish trumped mine to have a safe clean environment for me and my family and preserve the usability and value of my property and my freedoms. This is why I think much of the libertarian philosophy is a farce because it relies too heavily on everyone’s conscience to do the right thing but fails to take into account those who don’t for whatever reason.

    I hope Ms. Stiles wins her battle because it will be good for the state. I lived in NH as a youngster and loved the state. It holds a special place in my heart as a result. So, a few decades ago, not long after Three Mile Island, when the people rose up against having a similarly designed nuclear plant built in an environmentally and community sensitive area, I felt rather proud of them. Those people protested for their private property rights as well as for their commons.

    I hope the people win this time too and prevent the loss of their rights and freedoms or liberties from being usurped or denied by those who use the mantle of libertarianism to disguise the quest for corporate profits at the expense of the commonweal.

  • lilmanny

    Why don’t more libertarians live in Somalia?

  • talkradiosucks.com

    “I’ve had some pretty intense arguments with libertarians who regard private property rights and personal freedoms (or liberties) as their most sacred doctrines. Yet, they never quite were able to explain how their rights and freedoms to do as they wish trumped mine to have a safe clean environment for me and my family and preserve the usability and value of my property and my freedoms. This is why I think much of the libertarian philosophy is a farce because it relies too heavily on everyone’s conscience to do the right thing but fails to take into account those who don’t for whatever reason.”

    The people you are talking to are not libertarians. No libertarian worthy of the name would try to justify pollution in this manner.

    The Republicans have been trying to coopt libertarianism and pretend that it is a “branch” of conservatism, which is flatly false. This has gotten worse since the phony “tea party” started up. They’re trying to create the very confusion that you’ve evidenced in your post — I don’t blame you for being confused, just saying that this is exactly what they’re trying to do.

  • Frogmorton

    The legislators in New Hampshire are basing their decision on what they see as “shaky science” while Senator Stiles see it as accepted science. Here are some examples of other things that were considered “accepted science”
    • The earth is flat
    • The sun and stars revolve around the earth
    • And as recent as the 70’s – the planet is at risk of slipping into a new ice age.
    My brother in law is a meteorologist with Environment Canada and after you get a few beers in him he will start to buck the party line a little. He admits that with current science they can correctly predict conditions 12 hours in advance for a given location 80% of the time. And predicting weather is a cake walk compared to climate. To look at it another way he claims forecasting climate change with the data they have is akin to a doctor using binoculars to look at a jet plane flying overhead and trying to diagnose what’s wrong with the pilot. As someone who earns a living in the fossil fuel industry no one would be happier than me if tomorrow I could take possession of a new helium 3 cold fusion reactor to heat my house and fuel my truck but spare me your pleas for solar or wind energy as a viable replacement for hydrocarbon. If they are the only alternative then be prepared to live in a world where the only the rich can afford to turn their lights on. The divide between rich and poor won’t shrink it will widen and I know how much that would piss some of you off.

  • Rabiner

    TRS:

    “The people you are talking to are not libertarians. No libertarian worthy of the name would try to justify pollution in this manner.”

    You realize the average libertarian in this country doesn’t understand where libertarianism comes from or what it meant historically?

  • cdorsen

    Libertarianism is classic liberalism. The idea that the individual should control their own destiny with as little interference as possible. It is not anarchism or lack or government. The classic liberal (libertarian) believes that government has a role to play, but that role is limited and should not restrict freedom of the individual whenever possible. The role is primarily of protector. The role of government should be to protect the individual from the actions of other individuals infringing upon their freedoms.

    This could be applied to the climate debate and is certainly relevant in a conversation regarding pollution generally. Your pollution would certainly violate my freedom from such pollutants and the government should have a role in protecting me from it.

    But, you could take, as a libertarian, either side. The carbon emitter may believe that their carbon emissions are not hurting anyone and that climate science has yet to prove beyond doubt that it is. So, government should not interfere with their right to produce goods and services unless it can show emphatically that it is causing harm. (Note: I am not debating climate science one way or another in this comment)

  • talkradiosucks.com

    “You realize the average libertarian in this country doesn’t understand where libertarianism comes from or what it meant historically?”

    Yes, and they aren’t libertarians, no matter how much they think they are.

    I’d say the same thing about many people who call themselves “Christians”, too.

  • nuser

    We live under a dome, and to deny pollution is not a major problem is absurd. We finally recognize
    Coal miners” Black Lung”, why can’t we come all the way?You do not have to adhere to” Climate Change” dogma in order to recognize pollution. This is not a denial or affirmation of “Climate Change”. I simply don’t know.