It wasn’t that long ago that the environment was a bipartisan issue. Just 4 years ago, Republicans nominated John McCain, a Congressional leader on climate change, for president. The first President Bush appointed an activist EPA administrator, Bill Reilly, supported the Earth Summit in Rio and passed important Clean Air Act amendments. In past decades, the GOP included genuine environmental leaders like John Chafee and Sherwood Boehlert.
But today’s Republican party is the most anti-environment political force in America since the years of the robber barons. Paul Ryan is a climate change denier who has implied that snow in Wisconsin in winter somehow invalidates global warming. Can you say “duh”? (Yes, he also sent letters begging the Department of Energy for stimulus money for green jobs, but that was obviously just a routine pander for a constituent, probably just copied verbatim and barely read.)
Romney and Ryan both routinely refer to the environment only in terms that dismiss all support for sustainability as, in Ryan’s words, “green pork.” Support for our children’s future is thus recast as some sort of assault on the taxpayers. The fact that not all of the government’s investments in renewable energy have succeeded is used to tar any attempt to do anything other than worship Big Oil, Gas & Coal. One of Romney’s many lies in the last debate was to claim that “half” of the Recovery Act investments in renewables have failed, when in fact, even the Energy Department loan program that has received the most scrutiny has had a 90% success rate to date.
Solyndra is used as the example to prove all of this, without any reference to the conditions that led to this company going under — specifically, the Chinese government subsidization of the solar panel manufacturing industry, which caused the price of these panels to drop 75% in the past 3 years. The Obama administration has now instituted tariffs against Chinese photovoltaic panels to fight these practices and Solyndra itself is suing China’s three largest PV manufacturers.
Yes, as usual, Romney has held multiple positions on all of these issues, so it’s hard to tell how this slippery character really feels about energy and the environment, if in fact he has any genuine opinions on anything at all. But the point to keep in mind is that the Koch Brothers have used their petrochemical dollars to gain firm control of the Republican party and have so successfully infused their tea party disciples with their propaganda that large numbers of rank and file Republicans now believe that climate change is some sort of vast conspiracy of evil scientists. And it doesn’t help having Senate candidates like George Allen, who made hundreds of thousands of dollars from oil and coal companies, including by serving as spokesmodel for their “American Energy Freedom Center”.
It all adds up to a clear choice — to fight for President Obama’s clean energy agenda, and against the increasingly brazen efforts of Romney and the entire Republican party to take us back to the bad old days when industry’s interest in saving money trumped everyone’s interest in a safe and healthy future. There’s too much at stake not to throw ourselves completely into this fight until we win it.