Pulpit Bulls

Policy, Politics, and What's In Between

Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Is Our Planet Doomed?

Posted by Eric on June 29, 2009

Barack Obama and Al Gore
I don’t know the answer to that, but I will say that the vast majority of climate scientists fear catastrophic consequences if carbon emissions are not severely curbed. The American Clean Energy and Security Act was passed on Friday by seven votes. The bill is an insufficient answer to the threats posed by global warming, yet nearly half of a Democratic-controlled congress voted against it, and it still has to make its way through the Senate. In his column today, Paul Krugman calls legislative opposition “treason against the planet.” But what political solutions are there to passing stronger legislation when nearly all Republicans are guilty of so-called environmental treason?

Again, I don’t really know the answer. But it is worth pointing out that the stars were really aligned here: Nancy Pelosi made a huge push for this bill and Obama and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel lit up House Members’ phone lines. While Neil Sinhababu wonders if the congress might be better off without Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, I think it’s important to note that Peterson bucked strong constituent pressures and reached a compromise with bill-author Henry Waxman — providing conservative members of the Ag Committee sufficient cover to vote for the bill. Al Gore may have also, fittingly, been a key to passage. Though Gore opted against a public push for the Act, I have it on very good word that Gore was on the phones with some last-minute undecideds. While appearing publicly with Gore may have been out of the question, it seems that getting a call from a former Vice-President urging you to vote for his pet issue is actually pretty effective, because Gore managed to change some minds and personally get some more conservative Democrats to vote the right way.

I guess the point of this all is to show how much work went into getting a bare majority of the House to vote for climate change legislation. There is no guarantee that the Senate will do the same and for global warming to be adequately addressed we really need something much stronger from both the House and Senate. Should future elections shift the congress even slightly to the right, then the planet burns. The only way to imagine getting a much better bill in the near future is if Obama decides to really use the bully pulpit and make the case directly to American people that the planet is in peril and we need to act now. But like health care, he seems unwilling to make this case and instead irresponsibly opposes important provisions in the bill. It’s hard to feel great about a first step when the second step seems improbable and the third step seems impossible. But I guess there are more important things to worry about, like, what’s gonna happen with Michael Jackson’s kids?

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Posted in Environment, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Moocows’ Methane Madness

Posted by Eric on June 7, 2009

CowJamelle has an interesting post up about the environmental threat of cattle. Methane gasses emitted by cow burps and farts severely damage the environment, and curbing the amount of methane released will undoubtedly have to be a part of any adequate plan to address the threat posed by global warming. Studies have shown that converting a cow’s diet from (heavily-subsidized) corn and soybeans to easily digested feed like flaxseed and alfalfa would be an important step.

Jamelle mentions the political problems posed by shifts away from corn feed, although I think he gets it backwards when he writes, “our high rate of beef consumption is key to maintaining an absurd and outdated subsidy regime. And while reducing our beef consumption certainly won’t put an end on our massive and unsustainable agricultural (read: corn) subsidies, it could play a part in reducing the “need” for said subsidies.” But corn isn’t subsidized because cattle farmers needed cheaper feed, rather corn is fed to cattle because it’s cheap, in part because of heavy federal subsidies.

One last note: even changing cows’ diets, won’t make beef production sustainable. It takes about 15 pounds of feed to make 1 pound of beef, 6 pounds of feed for 1 pound of pork and 5 pounds of feed for 1 pound of chicken. Red meat just isn’t efficient and if we are serious about addressing the harms of anthropogenic climate change, there are going to be some tough choices to make in the coming years regarding our diets.

Lastly, I apologize for the title of this post and promise that in the future I will refrain from any use of the word moocow.

Posted in Environment, Food Policy | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »