Bill McKibben on Obama and Shell Oil

Published online 14 May 2015.

Yeah, I know, maybe if I’m very lucky this will generate another Rox/ Sux piefight, just like this diary has generated one today about Hillary Clinton.  I think of those piefights as opportunities — they give you all an opportunity to share where you really stand, rather than being able to put on leftistface while using “omigod Republicans” as a backup debating strategy.

I suppose that we will be reading the leftistface/ omigod Republicans shuffle until 2036, when we can expect famine, drought, and climate-change adjusted heat waves to ravage 93% America while great methane fireballs emerge from the floors of our dead oceans and explode into flames.  And even then nobody will be able to figure out where the “liberal Democrats” stand on Presidents who support oil interests.  At any rate, here is this diary’s main course, a statement day-before-yesterday by Bill McKibben:

Obama’s Catastrophic Climate-Change Denial

McKibben’s complaint is as follows:

THE Obama administration’s decision to give Shell Oil the go-ahead to drill in the Arctic shows why we may never win the fight against climate change. Even in this most extreme circumstance, no one seems able to stand up to the power of the fossil fuel industry. No one ever says no.

Now, of course, if you look at the White House page on global warming, you can see that President Obama accepts the scientific consensus on global warming, and that he claims to have some sort of plan.  So what’s McKibben’s beef?  Here’s the critical paragraph in which McKibben outlines his position.  Like me, McKibben thinks we need to keep the grease in the ground:

But you can’t deal with climate on the demand side alone. If we keep digging up more coal, gas and oil, it will get burned, if not here, then somewhere else. This is precisely the conclusion that a study in the journal Nature reached in January: If we’re to have any chance of meeting even Mr. Obama’s weak goal of holding temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, we have to leave most carbon underground. That paper, in particular, showed that the coal reserves in the Powder River basin in the West and the oil in Canada’s tar sands had to be left largely untouched, and that there was no climate-friendly scenario in which any oil or gas could be drilled in the Arctic.

On the one hand, Obama makes deals with China; on the other hand, he allows Shell to drill in the Arctic.  How does McKibben reconcile the contradiction in Obama?

This is not climate denial of the Republican sort, where people simply pretend the science isn’t real. This is climate denial of the status quo sort, where people accept the science, and indeed make long speeches about the immorality of passing on a ruined world to our children. They just deny the meaning of the science, which is that we must keep carbon in the ground.

What liberals really like is a President they can call a “leftist.”  Actually forcing the government to do something, however, is another issue for them.  We might say “hurray” when someone posts a global warming diary with lots of pretty videos on DailyKos.com — and we might even claim that we’ve “put pressure” upon our politicians to do something effective.  But as long as our backup position is “omigod Republicans,” it’s all hat and no cattle.Here’s how you pressure politicians within an authoritarian system like ours:

1) Form a voting bloc
2) Threaten to withhold your votes from your favorite politicians if they fail to carry out your agenda
3) Withhold votes from those who fail to carry out your agenda

Think we can do it if the planet is at stake?  Clinton takes gobs of money from oil interests.  What’s your position?

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