The Financial Times published what might be called an Open Letter from John McCain to Europeans: America Must Be a Good Role Model. The first question through the gate, before reading anything other than the title: Does that mean that John McCain believes that American under George W Bush and Richard Cheney has not been a good role model? That George Bush’s American does not live up to “our own high standards of morality and international responsibility”? This suggests so:
We cannot torture or treat inhumanely the suspected terrorists that we have captured. We must close the detention facility at Guantánamo
Yet, if John McCain believes (or claims) this, is he willing to name names or just talk around the issue?
But why does this the Guantanamo detention facility matter at Energy Smart? Putting aside the wind turbines used to power it and the potential for solar power, the interest here is more the paragraphs related to Global Warming. And, the disingenuous and misleading claims that are part of John McCain’s Straight Talk Express directly to a dirty energy non-action machine.
John McCain certainly can talk a good talk when it comes to Global Warming. And, he has a legislative record that suggests he recognizes the problem and wants to do something about it. After all, there is the McCain-Lieberman bill that would reduce carbon emissions by 65% by 2050 that was actually voted on by the US Senate, defeated 55-43 by the Republican Senate in 2003 (two years before Hurricane Katrina). As McCain said then,
“Let’s get real here: this is a very minimal proposal that should be a first step,” McCain told the Senate, showing pictures of Arctic Sea ice loss and melting at Glacier National Park. “But we have to start somewhere. We will be back, because these pictures will continue to get worse and won’t improve until we begin to address this issue.”
That Straight Talk is pretty good, isn’t it? And, this is prior to Hurricane Katrina. Prior to An Inconvenient Truth. Prior to the most recent International Panel on Climate Change report. Prior to a major shift in US public and elite understanding and views on Global Warming. Yes, John McCain once held a leadership position when it came to Global Warming and climate change legislation. The only problem:
The Science has changed, we have learned much.
The public understanding has changed.
The public, elite, business, international support for action has changed (increased).
John McCain hasn’t changed.
In 2003, John McCain’s name was on legislation for roughly a 65% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. In 2008 … the same.
Back to the Financial Times,
I have introduced legislation that would require a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions …
Yes, John, you have. This legislation, however, fails utterly on the basic principles of Global Warming legislation. To start with, it falls short of the base minimum requirement of an 80% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions, a base requirement to provide a 50% chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. And, McCain has not even seen fit to sign up as a cosponsor to just slightly less inadequate bill written by two of his strongest supporters: Joe Lieberman and John Warner. Interesting words, misleading words.
but that is just a start.
Well, of course. Introduced and not passed is not even a start on real action. And, alongside the words where is the action.
We need a successor to Kyoto,
One has to wonder whether McCain speaks like this in front of private Republican audiences when trying to raise money. One has to wonder how the Republican base likes calls for international treaties.
a cap-and-trade system that delivers the necessary environmental impact in an economically responsible manner.
Well, John, “an economically responsible manner” would provide a system with 100% auction, to provide economic clarity and clear signals to the market place about the value of reducing pollution. It would not provide hidden subsidies through passing out auction credits and would not exempt polluters.
And, “an economically responsible manner” would provide paths to ensure that consumers (and that includes industry, government, communities, and individual households/individuals) have access to the technologies and options to respond responsibly to those price signals.
And, economically responsible means driving ever tighter standards of all sorts (building, electronic, automobile mileage) to provide signals to drive efficiency ever greater so that we get ever more economic value from every drop of fuel, from every pound of carbon.
New technologies hold great promise.
Yes, they do. But let us not have a fantasy that we cannot do anything until inventors wave a magic wand and invent something new.
We need to unleash the power and innovation of the marketplace in order to meet our environmental challenges.
Yes, John, we do. And, one path for doing so is that open and clear price signal.
Right now safe, climate-friendly nuclear energy is a critical way both to improve the quality of our air and to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources.
Interesting, isn’t it. We must have “new technologies”. Okay, nuclear power really isn’t going to be “new”, but deployment of relatively mature technology. “Power and innovation of the marketplace” should drive things. Hmm, but nuclear power plants are not driven fully by the marketplace but require heavy government support to be built. (There are many factors, but the data is clear, the “marketplace” does not favor construction of nuclear power plants unless there is significant government involvement, including financial supports (loan guarantees, insurance against risk, etc).)
And, nuclear power has the quite serious reality that it takes a significant amount to deploy, with little impact from new plants in the United States likely prior to the 2020s … and the problems are already so serious.
In addition, how will “nuclear energy … reduce [American] dependence on foreign energy sources”? Less than 3% of US electricity comes from burning oil thus new nuclear power plants will have little impact on oil bills.
Thus, these words, on first blush, might look good, but on examination the Straight Talk Express doesn’t seem to lead in a straight direction.
McCain wrote much to agree with
The bottom line is that none of us can act as if our only concerns are within our own borders. We cannot define our national interests so narrowly that we fail to see how intimately our fate is bound up with that of the rest of humanity. There is such a thing as good international citizenship. If we wish to be models for others, we must be model citizens ourselves.
And, as he finishes, “This is not idealism. It is the truest form of realism.” Yes, realism calls for internatinal engagement with tools other than military force, to approach challenges differently than by singing a chorus of Bomb, Bomb, Iran.
McCain writes that “Certainly the US must be that model country.” One must wonder whether John McCain would be able to foster that “model country”. His words might seem appealing on first blush, but carry less weight when considered more deeply.
When it comes to Global Warming, John McCain provides a good Republican voice in the US Senate, a voice with at least a toe in the real world in comparison with others in his caucus, such as James Inhofe (R-EX). But, his Straight Talk has not been straight action, with avoiding every meaningful vote related to greening the economy in the past year. This OPED, again, has interesting words … words not backed with action.