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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, April 03, 2013

 
Politico sees no policy, hears no policy, speaks no policy

by David Atkins

The headmast of Politico is a four-page story about Tom Steyer, an climate change activist and billionaire who is promising to throw primary cash against pro-Keystone Pipeline Democrats.

The story spends a lot of time with fretting and gnashing of teeth about how this one individual will make the horrible, horrible "mistake" of shifting Democrats too far to the left, just as the Koch brothers have shifted Republicans to the right--as if that somehow hasn't been a successful strategy for Charles and David Koch, or as if one liberal billionaire's efforts amount to much of anything against the entire weight of the conservative establish and fossil fuel industry money.

But unmentioned throughout the lengthy article is the actual policy.

Here is what the Keystone Pipeline functionally means:

It projects that Canada will double its current tar sands production over the next decade to more than 1.8 million barrels a day. That rate will mean cutting down some 740,000 acres of boreal forest — a natural carbon reservoir. Extracting oil from tar sands is also much more complicated than pumping conventional crude oil out of the ground. It requires steam-heating the sands to produce a petroleum slurry, then further dilution.

One result of this process, the ministry says, is that greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector as a whole will rise by nearly one-third from 2005 to 2020 — even as other sectors are reducing emissions. Canada still hopes to meet the overall target it agreed to at Copenhagen in 2009 — a 17 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020. If it falls short, as seems likely, tar sands extraction will bear much of the blame.

Just how much emissions are we talking about? About A lot:

Recognizing the proposed Project 's lifetime is expected to be at least fifty years, we believe it is important to be clear that under at least one scenario, the extra GHG emissions associated with this proposed Project may range from 600 million to 1.15 billion tons CO2-e, assuming the lifecycle analysis holds over time"

Over 1 billion tons of equivalent CO2 emissions is a substantial chunk of emissions. We recently discussed The Critical Decade report produced by the Climate Commission established by the Australian government. Their report concluded that humanity can emit not more than 1 trillion tonnes of CO2 between 2000 and 2050 to have a probability of about 75% of limiting temperature rise to 2°C or less. According to the latest data, between 2000 and 2010 we emitted approximately 300 billion tons of CO2, so after 20% of the allotted timeframe, we're already over 30% of the way through the allotted emissions.
Policy matters. I'm certainly no fan of capricious billionaires dictating policy. But as long as we're going to have a system that's entirely bought and paid for by rich people, there's nothing wrong with rich people who have a moral compass on something besides social issues getting into the game. Treating Koch Brother money to protect their ill-gotten riches as functionally equivalent to a philanthropist concerned about the future of the planet is moral insanity. As Steyer says:

He's even been compared to Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialist brothers whose political spending on pro-fossil-fuel, anti-regulatory causes and candidates has been targeted by liberals as a threat to democracy.

Steyer bristles at the comparison.

“The Kochs are doing something that is in their own self-interest. If the laws that support the fossil fuel industry stay in place, then they’re going to be a lot richer,” Steyer said.

Though Steyer has backed venture capital firms that invest in renewable energy companies, he said he has no vested business interest in expanding renewable energy and tackling climate change.

On the other hand, Steyer cited the tea party movement — which was organized with assistance from deep-pocketed conservative groups, including those linked to the Kochs — as a model for his work, praising it as “very well organized” despite his stark disagreements with its agenda.

He said he doesn’t have any specific plans for launching campaigns in 2014, though “it would be shocking if we didn’t.” While Steyer says that “my party affiliation starts with a ‘D,’” he makes no apologies for targeting a fellow Democrat in the Massachusetts race, calling the fate of the Earth’s climate more important than party labels.
No kidding. If one smart billionaire pushing Democrats to take climate change seriously is suddenly the Villager equivalent of the Koch Brothers and Freedomworks rolled into one, we're in big trouble as a species.


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