Friday, December 14, 2012

Take It Back 7: Energy and the Environment

In my latest reading of James Carville and Paul Begala's Take It Back: Our Party, Our Country, Our Future (copyright 2006), I read the chapter on the environment, and I started the chapter on the media (i.e., how the media does not really manifest a left-wing bias).  My post today will be about the environment, whereas my post tomorrow will be about the media.

What did I like about the chapter on the environment?  A number of things.  I liked Carville and Begala's point that Democrats should concentrate on climate change rather than drilling in ANWR (which many people don't visit anyway), that they should promote good environmental stewardship as a religious value, that they should highlight how environmental damage threatens people's health, that they should seek the support of hunters and fishermen by talking about how environmental damage leads to fewer places where people can hunt and fish, and that they should discuss how higher CAFE standards could lead to the production of more fuel-efficient cars and thus more jobs.  I also appreciated that Begala and Carville mentioned people who were being part of the solution rather than part of the problem.  They refer favorably to the advancements that Texas has made in terms of alternative fuels (and I talk about Texas Governor Rick Perry's discussion of Texas' environmental and clean energy record in my post here), as well as General Electric's profits from renewable energy, "water purification and cleaner transportation" (page 182).

After talking about GE, Carville and Begala criticize how a number of Democrats approach environmental issues: "We'll admit it: There are times when Democrats can be preachy and prissy and sanctimonious and scornful when talking about energy and the environment.  We tend to sneer at people who drive SUVs and at companies that create jobs but also contribute to global warming.  Worse, some Democratic environmentalists tend to be almost self-loathing about America's energy consumption.  Instead, we should celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit of America; we should embrace the profit motive that is driving more and more corporate leaders to the Green/Green Solution."

I appreciate Carville and Begala's support for an environmentalism that is consistent with jobs, religion, and the desires of hunters and fishermen.  I remember a professor saying that, in some regions of the country, the National Rifle Association is a strong proponent of responsible environmental policies.  Why should environmentalists position themselves as extremists, when they can form alliances with a wide range of people, even conservatives?

What did I not like about the chapter on the environment?  I did not feel that Carville and Begala were sensitive to the deleterious effects that some of their proposals could have.  For example, they support cap-and-trade and the windfall profits tax.  But could not those lead to higher energy prices, as companies pass on the cost of buying carbon credits or paying the windfall profits tax to consumers?  Carville and Begala should have addressed that point.  It would be nice, though, if a windfall profits tax could work out, for I like the story about how Sarah Palin as Governor of Alaska brought in higher revenues and gave Alaskans a check through taxes on oil profits (but see here for another take on that).

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