Foreign Policy Blogs


We were away for several days (see post below), otherwise I would’ve further deluged you with information on the passage of the landmark American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), aka ACES, beyond what you may already have been experiencing.  I should, of course, weigh in with my humble opinion.  My first impulse, given the complexity of the bill which merely reflects the complexity – and stupidity, in many cases – of the politics, is to say, categorically:  “What the hell do I know?”  Okay, that might not suffice.

As you know, Henry Waxman and Ed Markey’s bill passed in the House on Friday on a 219-212 vote.  People like Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, Al Gore, Kevin Rudd, and a host of others, have come out in strong support.  Greenpeace, among others, has condemned the bill for being too weak, and the “Financial Times” calls it a Cap-and-trade mess.

Paul Krugman excoriates those who voted against it for Betraying the Planet.  I think it’s more like they’re betraying themselves and their constituents, but that’s what regressed large groups – such as the 168 Republicans and 44 Democrats who voted against the bill – do.  Does Joe Barton, for instance, whose district includes Houston, think that the hurricanes that have been blasting up from the Gulf are going to diminish in intensity as the world grows warmer?  Three of the four Mississippi members voted no, as did all seven of the Louisiana reps.  Were these folks all on vacation on another planet when Katrina decimated their states?  Mary Bono Mack and seven other Republicans voted yes, but Greg Walden whose district in Oregon has forests that are disappearing from climate-induced drought and pine beetles, voted no.  Representatives of districts in the “bread basket” whose farms are going to be crushed by warming voted no.

Now we move to the Senate where the politics are even more twisted.  I have opined on the inherently undemocratic nature of the Senate before.  Here is an analysis from Reuters on what to expect from the Senate.  Clearly, it’s going to take some incredible focus from the White House, groups like the US Climate Action Partnership with its powerful industry membership, the national environmental organizations, the grassroots and the netroots, to get this legislation through to the President’s desk.  (There’ll be more from me soon on the politics in the Senate, based on some input from a conference I attended a couple of weeks ago, and other perspectives.)

For now, I’m definitely not in the “no bill is better than a bad bill” camp.  It’s important to note that environmental laws and regulations have never followed a perfectly linear path.  It’s important to keep pressing on and get the best possible bill out of Congress – if one is even possible, given the damnable parochialism of the House of Representatives and Senate’s memberships.



Bill Hewitt
Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change