All Het Up: Anticipating the State of the Union

By January 17, 2007Energy, Global Warming

Much speculation going on about the environmental portion of the President’s State of the Union address set for next Tuesday. Not content to wait to, you know, actually hear from him, the usual suspects on the environmental left — Natural Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, etc. — are holding a news conference Friday to get the condemnation out of the way early.

This year, Alan Hubbard, chair of the National Economic Council predicted that the President’s address would generate “headlines above the fold that will knock your socks off in terms of our commitment to energy independence.” Is this a prediction or just more spin? How will he address energy and global warming this year — same lofty rhetoric, same empty promises?

Bet we know their answer.

White House Spokesman Tony Snow is dismissing predictions of the President embracing a European-style cap-and-trade system to discourage emissions, saying, “If you’re talking about enforceable carbon caps, in terms of industry wide and nationwide, we knocked that down. That’s not something we’re talking about.” Judging from this Reuters story, the news will be something about ethanol. Mandates? We hope not.

The most interesting commentary about the U.S. politics of global warming we’ve seen this week actually comes from Canada in a piece that doesn’t even mention the United States. The National Post’s Evan Coyne takes the ruling Conservatives to task for promoting policies that are nothing more than a PR attempt to say “me too” after the Liberals.

At any rate, the Tories have learned their lesson. It isn’t efficacy by which the parties’ commitment to curbing global warming will be assessed, but motion. It isn’t progress the public wants, but the appearance of it; not concrete improvements, but gestures of concern. The core of both the Liberal and Conservative plans, the part that will actually make much difference, is “cap-and-trade,” a system allowing companies to buy and sell emissions credits under an overall regulatory ceiling. But that takes a while to get up and running, and in the meantime it’s important to be seen to be Doing Something — though not something that will cost anything, at least to any identifiable interest or region.

Excellent, if depressing, political analysis.