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A (Green) Tea Party

I’ve been trying to understand the Tea Party Movement. Sounds like a lot of angry people who want to get the government out of their lives and cut both taxes and the deficit.

Written by New York Times |
April 26, 2010 2:43:50 am

I’ve been trying to understand the Tea Party Movement. Sounds like a lot of angry people who want to get the government out of their lives and cut both taxes and the deficit. Nothing wrong with that — although one does wonder where they were in the Bush years. Never mind. I’m sure like all such protest movements the Tea Partiers will get their 10 to 20 per cent of the vote. But should the Tea Partiers actually aspire to break out of that range,attract lots of young people and become something more than just entertainment for Fox News,I have a suggestion: become the Green Tea Party.

I’d be happy to design the t-shirt logo and write the manifesto. The logo is easy. It would show young Americans throwing barrels of oil imported from Venezuela and Saudi Arabia into Boston Harbor.

The manifesto is easy,too: “We,the Green Tea Party,believe that the most effective way to advance America’s national security and economic vitality would be to impose a $10 ‘Patriot Fee’ on every barrel of imported oil,with all proceeds going to pay down our national debt.”

America now imports about 11 million barrels a day,about 57 percent of our total oil needs — mostly from Canada,Mexico,Venezuela,Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. As T. Boone Pickens told Congress the other day: “In January 2010,our trade deficit for the month was $37.3 billion — $27.5 billion of that was money we sent overseas to import oil.”

If we put a Patriot Fee on all of those imported barrels,we would use less,cease enriching bad regimes,strengthen our own dollar,make the air cleaner and the climate more stable,foster the exploitation of domestic and renewable energy sources,promote electric vehicles,help bring down the global price of oil (which hurts Iran and helps poor Africa),and we could use the revenue to shrink the deficit. It’s win,win,win,win,win,win …

Indeed,the Green Tea Party could say,“We’ve got our own health care plan — a plan to make America healthy by simultaneously promoting energy security,deficit security and environmental security.”

“Think about it,” said Carl Pope,the chairman of the Sierra Club. “Green tea is full of antioxidants,” which some believe help reduce cancer and heart disease. “It’s really good for your health.” And a Green Tea Party,he added,could be good for the country’s health “by harnessing all of its energy and unconventional politics” to end our addiction to oil.

Yes,I know,dream on. The Tea Party is heading to the hard libertarian right and would never support an energy bill that puts a fee on carbon.

So if there is going to be a Green Tea Party,it will have to emerge from a different place — the radical center,a center committed to a radical departure from business as usual. Acting on that impulse,Senators John Kerry,Lindsey Graham and Joseph Lieberman had forged a bipartisan climate/energy/jobs bill that deserves an energetic centrist Green Tea Party to support it.

This critical piece of energy legislation was supposed to be unveiled by the three senators on Monday,but it was suddenly postponed late Saturday because of Senator Graham’s fury that the Senate Democratic leader,Harry Reid of Nevada,and the White House were planning to take up a highly controversial immigration measure before the energy bill.

If this is what the Obama administration is doing — to score a few cheap political points with Hispanics — it is a travesty. The bipartisan energy bill is ready to go. It is far from perfect. Indeed,it is a shame the fossil fuel industries still have such a stranglehold on Congress. But it’s the best we’re going to get,and we have got to get started. However,without a centrist Green Tea Party movement — one that brings the same passion to cutting emissions that the Tea Party brings to cutting deficits — even this effort will never pass.

This bill introduces a carbon price and other means to control the CO2 emissions of various sectors of the economy,without an economywide cap-and-trade system. The bill’s goal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. But to garner broad support,it will also expand domestic production of oil,natural gas and nuclear power and offer tax breaks to manufacturers who make their facilities more energy efficient and create green jobs.

“No bill that could pass Congress right now or in the immediate future would be sufficient to produce enough clean power to mitigate climate change at the rate we need,” remarked the physicist Joe Romm,who writes the blog and is author of an insightful new book on this subject,Straight Up. “We simply aren’t sufficiently desperate to do what is needed,which is nonstop deployment of a staggering amount of low-carbon energy,including energy efficiency,for the rest of the century.”

The reason a Green Tea Party should coalesce to support this bill,argued Romm,is because it will set a price on carbon pollution and help foster commercialization of clean technologies — like hybrids,batteries and solar — at sufficient scale to enable the U.S. to rapidly ramp up when the seriousness of climate change becomes inescapably obvious to all.

In short,the bill is a step in the right direction toward reducing greenhouse gases and expanding our base of clean power technologies so we can compete with China in this newest global industry. And if we don’t start now,every solar panel,electric car and wind turbine we’ll have to buy when climate change really hits will come with instructions in Chinese. Go Green Tea Party.

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