How to Unite the Country

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President Obama’s approval ratings are polling in the low 40’s and that’s not very good for Democrats as the midterm elections approach. It’s hard for me to understand why he isn’t polling better.  Do people really think less of him because he hasn’t agreed to a boxing match with Vladimir Putin?  Come on folks, he’s made good on a lot of promises.  Look, he’s delivered on Health Care reform that a majority of Americans originally supported.  He’s made some progress on Immigration reform (not enough and some of it by executive order), kept the country out of wars and is backing a minimum wage increase. And realize that the administration has taken strong stands on voting rights issues and gun control.  Most of the issues are not controversial or shouldn’t be, although of course, they’ve been politicized and have had the effect of polarizing the country.  But one of the most polarizing topics, and one that should concern everybody is the health of our planet.  However, there are some political “scientists” with an agenda that don’t give a flip about mother earth and most, don’t even believe what they are saying.  They’ve been bought out by “big oil” and are the darlings of the political right who champion them as experts, “experts” who represent the 1% of “scientists” worldwide who profess the view that climate change is a natural occurrence and nothing whatever to do with the actions of men, women, business and governments.  And even conservatives who are vulnerable to this kind of corporate propaganda have begun to see a connection between natural disasters and climate change and accept the fact that the globe is warming.  Some even view it as inevitable and a message from God.  Their idea of action is to pray.  But we may need more than prayer.  Unless we do something about it NOW, it may be too late for the next generation of folks who inhabit our planet.

And this is the issue that the Obama administration ought to be leading on.  This is the stuff of legacy.  Climate change could be the one that defines the Obama administration.  The President was elected on a campaign of hope and optimism for change.  The expectations were high.  He was thought to be a new kind of world leader who could change the world for the better.  And he still can, but first he’s got to do something to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  Now the U.S. isn’t the worst offender in this regard, but we still offend and depend way too much on the burning of fossil fuels.  The government has not done enough to promote alternative clean energies like wind, electric and solar.  Our power grids are still antiquated.  Instead, there’s a stubborn refusal to stop drilling for oil and natural gas.  And of course as long as we continue to rely on fossil fuels, there will be a need for conveyance by pipelines that are not equipped to handle nasty stuff like tar sands from Canada.  Just look at what happened in 2013 in Mayflower, Arkansas.  This small southern town is still reeling from a burst Exxon pipeline that produced a sludge spill that flooded the community.  People are still suffering health problems one year after the leak.  And the cruel irony is that just last week Mayflower was essentially destroyed by a series of tornadoes.  It has become a victim of our nation’s energy policy and attitude toward climate change.

President Obama doesn’t need a PowerPoint to demonstrate the problem.  There’s plenty of proof that a problem exists. And it’s widespread.  Killer tornadoes just ripped through Arkansas, Oklahoma and Mississippi.  Northern Florida is practically underwater, having received 20+inches of rain over the course of a few days.  Hurricane Sandy’s impact was felt all the more because of the rising sea levels.  Severe droughts and wildfires in the West are daily events.  West Virginia and Pennsylvania residents have a unlimited supply of flammable drinking water thanks to hydraulic fracturing.  So what can President Obama do?  For starters, the administration could draft a sensible and sustainable clean energy plan that would restore the reputation of the EPA.  He could put a stop to the Keystone XL pipeline.  He could commit the country to reducing CO2 emissions even more and could put pressure on India and China to do the same.  He could fine energy companies substantially and require them to clean up their mess.  He could also forbid drilling and fracking on federal land.

That climate change is due in part to human activity is no longer debatable.  Preserving the planet ought to be our top priority and were it a higher priority for the Obama administration, his poll numbers might be higher.  By the way, why don’t the pollsters start polling on the preservation of the planet?  And to really put pressure on our political leaders to vote for legislation that seeks to help the environment and to vote against legislation that would do it harm, why not publicize more widely The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) ratings it gives politicians?  Gun loving politicians take pride in their NRA ratings and use it to secure votes.  Why wouldn’t planet loving politicians take pride in their LCV ratings?  Unfortunately, environmental causes are too closely connected to progressives and too often discredited by conservatives who have been purchased by corporate interests who don’t want any regulations that might cut into profits.  In their view, profits are more important than our planet.  Let’s take take politics and profit out of the equation and do what’s best for the planet for a change.

Tea Party and Energy Policy

A Happy New Year 1867, A Happy New Year 1917

After some of the worst man made disasters in modern times, it’s hard to believe that the Tea Party still wants to dismantle regulatory roadblocks to expanded drilling and mining.  I thought “drill baby drill” was the most embarrassing catch phrase to come out of Sara Palin’s mouth and would be put to rest after the BP oil spill that nearly destroyed the Gulf Coast.  I was wrong.  In fact, according to an article in the New York Times, key Tea Party leaders are upset with Republicans for not standing tough during the lame duck session and for not selecting Tea Party members for important leadership positions.  The New York Times referenced an opinion article in Politico in which co-founders of the Tea Party Patriots, Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin expressed disappointment in the Republicans appointee of Fred Upton to head the Energy and Commerce Committee saying that Republicans “are not serious about expanding the nation’s energy producing capability”, which they claim America is desperate to do.  To achieve this, regulatory roadblocks would have to be dismantled and safety concerns dismissed. Is this really what Americans want? Do most favor the reckless plunder of our natural resources with little attention to human and environmental costs? Have they forgotten about the deadly mining and drilling accidents of 2010 that could have been prevented had there been more regulatory oversight? Are Tea Party activists aware of the economic and environmental impact of deep water offshore drilling? Do they know that the fishing industry of the Gulf Coast may never recover from the BP oil spill?  I think they do and they don’t care.   But the Tea Party does care about the special interests of the oil and gas industry whose profits they seem duty bound to protect.