Thursday, November 6, 2014

WSJ: Little Green Machine: Democrats make a bad investment in the climate-change lobby

Little Green Machine

Democrats make a bad investment in the climate-change lobby.

Businessman Tom Steyer 

Nov. 6, 2014 7:12 p.m. ET   THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Tom Steyer became a billionaire by investing in fossil fuels, among other things, and maybe he should return to his roots. He may need the money after blowing at least $74 million trying to persuade voters to oppose Republicans who disagree with him on climate change.

If you want proof that money doesn’t buy elections, Mr. Steyer and his fellow green comrades are it. The San Francisco investor gave most of his money to his NextGen Climate Action Super Pac, which spent almost exclusively for Democrats. Environmental groups including NextGen spent $85 million to support President Obama ’s green agenda, especially his regulations targeting coal for extinction.

They didn’t even get a lousy T-shirt, and they aren’t taking it well. “Despite the climate movement’s significant investments and an unprecedented get out the vote program, strong voices for climate action were defeated and candidates paid for by corporate interests and bolstered by sinister voter suppression tactics won the day,” declared Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune.

Venting can be healthy, but self-deception isn’t. Mr. Brune should really blame the economic reality that the U.S. boom in fossil-fuel production is creating high-paying jobs and reducing energy costs across the economy. By contrast, Mr. Obama’s green agenda has created few jobs and raised costs for millions of Americans.

Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips on how the Democrats outspent the Republicans in the midterms and why they have nothing to show for it. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Voters in Pacific Heights or Manhattan may not mind paying more for their self-styled political virtue, but the average Debbie in Dubuque would rather not. The mistake too many Democrats made was listening to Mr. Steyer instead of Debbie.

This year’s environmental debate boiled down to Democratic support for Mr. Obama’s climate rules and green subsidies against full-throated Republican support for energy production of all sorts, including coal, oil and natural-gas fracking, more pipelines and greater fossil-fuel exports. These GOP candidates won nearly everywhere.

In Kentucky Mitch McConnell made opposition to the “war on coal” the centerpiece of his campaign. He won what was expected to be a close election by 15 points. Coal-supporting Shelley Moore Capito became the first GOP Senator in 55 years from West Virginia, where voters also ended the 38-year career of Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall, who couldn’t separate himself from Mr. Obama’s energy policies.

Nearly every one of Mr. Steyer’s favored candidates—in Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Wisconsin and Maine—lost. New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen won, but Scott Brownhad her playing defense for supporting a cap-and-trade carbon tax. A recent Gallup poll found that climate change ranked last among 16 issues that voters cared about in the midterms.

It’s even possible that Mr. Steyer’s money helped Republicans. He and the greens have made opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline a litmus test of their support for Democrats. Mr. Obama has in turn dutifully delayed approving the pipeline, despite multiple government reports showing no net effect on the climate. But the delay has raised Keystone’s national profile and made it a wedge issue in Senate campaigns.

Republicans campaigned for the project that polls show has 70% approval, using Keystone to appeal to union workers and voters without college degrees. Colorado’s Cory Gardner hammered Democratic Sen. Mark Udall on his refusal to support Keystone. He’s now Senator-elect Gardner.

Republicans are promising to push pro-fossil-fuel energy policy in Congress, including support for Keystone XL, fast-track approval for liquid natural-gas export terminals, opening more federal land and offshore areas to drilling, and reining in anti-coal regulations. Democrats who want to help create jobs, and perhaps save their own, may want to rethink their fealty to Tom Steyer’s checkbook.


  1. Also, I think all those obnoxious and shrill reports on climate doom that we were bombarded with leading up to the elections had a negative effect on most voters. There must have been five or more every single day, and it just flat out reeked of desperatism.

  2. Almost no one is discussing how windmills are killing eagles and bats. Many of the smaller bat species are already threatened by white nose syndrome - a non native disease. If loggers inadvertently destroy bats or bat habitats they are fined.

  3. Guess you have to remember which two things are soon parted!

  4. The shrill cry of Brune about fossil fuel interests and "sinister" voter gerrymandering reminds me of the head of the Canadian Quebec independence party losing the referendum on splitting from the rest of Canada: he said the loss was due to "money and the ethnic vote". Money being a veiled reference to "Jewish" money. We were all horrified by his statement, and that was the end of his political career.

    It is interesting that Brune could say essentially the same thing, but no eyes are batted. American politics is so blatantly antagonistic and divided into evil-good terms that compromise or changes-of-mind are understandably difficult to impossible. What a shame. The greatest power in the world, the greatest in history, and the worldview of us vs them stops America from achieving the heights of which it is so clearly possible.

    1. A thoughtful and accurate assessment of the current state of US political landscape by a neighbor to the north, and not a tinge of smug I-could-have-told-you so-ness that seems to color so many comments from northern neighbors. Thank you, neighbor. Maybe somehow we can revert to that greatness that characterized so much of our history and once again deserve your full respect.