Sad But True

Vox recently had an article detailing the environmental efforts of “subnational” units of government.

The actions being taken by a number of states and cities to curb greenhouse gases and slow climate change are impressive, and we should all be grateful that the anti-science, anti-humanity policies of our federal government are being countered, at least to some extent, by state and local units of government.

The article began, however, with a coy promise: to reveal the “very simple” political trick that cities and states can employ to pass sound environmental policies. It even titled the article “This one weird trick can help any state or city pass clean energy policy.”

Federal climate politics in the US remains as gridlocked as ever, but the past few years have seen a remarkable flourishing of climate and clean energy policy at the subnational level, in states and cities across the country.

This has given rise to all sorts of deep analysis — about the potential and limitations of states as laboratories of democracy, about the role of cities in the 21st century, about the ability of subnational actors to offset federal inaction — but, oddly, the simplest lesson of all often goes unstated.

In point of fact, all these subnational jurisdictions, for all their differences, used the same simple trick to achieve policy success.

What is that trick? Well, it’d be no fun if I just told you!

Instead, let’s run through a quick review of recent subnational policy progress on climate and clean energy. Perhaps, by the end of this list, if you squint just right, you’ll see the trick for yourself.

The article then proceeded to identify a number of places doing the heavy lifting: Washington state, where Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, working for the first time with solid Democratic majorities in both houses of the state legislature, passed a suite of ambitious bills; Nevada, where newly elected Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, working with Democratic majorities in both houses of the state legislature, committed the state to 50 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050;
Colorado, where newly elected Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, together with Democratic majorities in that state’s legislature, has passed what the article called “an astonishing suite of climate and clean energy bills.”

The article also noted progress in New Mexico, New Jersey and California, and listed encouraging deliberations in New York, Massachusetts and Maine.

And it wasn’t just states. As the article reported, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the city’s Democratic city council unveiled “LA’s Green New Deal.” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s Democratic council passed a sweeping set of climate bills, which would, among other things, target emissions from existing buildings. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his Democratic city council passed a bill committing the city to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.

The article detailed similar successes in Boise, Idaho, Missoula, Montana, Cincinnati, Ohio and Washington, D.C.

So what do all these jurisdictions have in common? What “trick” enabled these state governments to address the threat of climate change so aggressively?

The trick is: elect Democrats.

There are many differences among these jurisdictions in size, ambition, and policy details, but one thing they all have in common is that Democrats have the power to pass policy despite Republican opposition. It’s not that no Republicans voted for any of these measures — there were R votes here and there, so some could charitably be called “bipartisan” — but that Republicans were not in a position to block any of them.

Last year, Nevada had a Republican governor; he vetoed a clean energy mandate. This year it has a Democratic governor; he signed it.

That’s how it works, in practice. When Democrats take control, in numbers that preclude Republican veto power, they pass thoughtful, ambitious policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the clean energy transition. Where Republicans have the power to block such policies, they do. There are exceptions — all hail Illinois— but they are comparatively rare.

Perhaps climate and clean energy shouldn’t be partisan. But at the present moment, purely as a descriptive matter, they are partisan.

If you care about the environment,  the simplest and most reliable way to support sane environmental policies is to vote Democratic.

Of course, that’s also the “trick” if you care about civil rights, the Constitution, the rule of law…


  1. “The actions being taken by a number of states and cities to curb greenhouse gases and slow climate change are impressive, and we should all be grateful that the anti-science, anti-humanity policies of our federal government are being countered, at least to some extent, by state and local units of government.”

    This comment points to the overlooked importance of the local elections this November more than in the past; stronger support at city and state levels will encourage higher levels of government to pay attention to the realities of where their support is needed most. The lack of interest in primary and local elections is why and how we became, not only one of the most polluted nations, but now have lost our position of trust as the most powerful nation on earth. We must bring full support “down to earth” before we choke to death on the foul air of our polluted environment and the foul air coming from our nation’s leaders today.

    “If you care about the environment, the simplest and most reliable way to support sane environmental policies is to vote Democratic.”

  2. The local and state governments are responsible for dealing with the fallout from climate change, unlike the federal government. Perhaps local voters have awakened to the reality that keeping Republicans in power keeps voters powerless.

  3. I just heard last evening that Karlee Macer and Christina Hale may both be considering running for Governor in our state for 2020. That was fantastic news!

    They would both be great Democratic leaders, but I believe that Karlee Macer could not only get the Democrats in this state activated and motivated, but she would also appeal to the Republicans. For those of you who don’t know who Karlee Macer is, she is a Democrat member of the Indiana House of Representatives who has beenrepresenting a historically Republican district since 2013. They keep re-electing her.

    There is a window of Hope.

  4. What our country needs is a veto-proof Democratic majority in both houses of Congress and a decent human being as President.

  5. good push, if some govs can open some eyes to the goals,besides climate change,to get a labor following also for the green future jobs.wall street wont invest until its pushed into it. present flow of our wages into wall streets profits,instead of our pockets,will keep corprate intrests as is. when the big banks see investment as thier needs to produce,and a hickup in the flow,isnt welcomed. present fossil fuel world doesnt want change,when they expect profits,and when they have the money,they have the power. Bernie opened a can of worms,and finaly now. people are taking notice,but mainstream media is in full compliance with Murdock. (goebels on steroids).what we need is to have Bernie and like minded people take the damn gloves off and start putting some spine into this. too many slams by a terranicle party known as republicans have locked arms,through groups like alec,and demanded to change everything for the monied intrests,with no known,plan. (only known by mcconnels mob,call them out now!)as seen it looks to be a take over of all goverment enities to be controlled by the likes of wall streets greed.. treason,and killing alot of us in the act.. ive yet to see much movement by any corp to invest in any renewables,as the status quo continues. i guess thier holding out,until anti trust legislation is eliminated and that only allows present corps to invest in green,and have them sap up our economy again. sounds like something mcconnel would jump on,if not implementing now..all this hype could move the green deal eventually, but only when wall street has the movement by the people,and sufficiant legislation is gained to keep the profits again,out of the working class,and into the greed street elites.. keep asking questions,where is mcconnel leading us? get mcconnels ass on a hot seat,and get some answers. its pretty obvious hes giving it to the rich,now have him tell the working class that..tell the DCCC to butt out of a alec like control of the demo party. i only now,contribute by direct mail to the candidate. no more orgs. if your not progressive,your part of the issue,not the solution..
    also,the hill 4/15/19 russians make big investment in kentucky alum mill,by chris rodrigo..
    lookup oleg deripreska while,your at it. heres a international mafia like billionaire,and bud to putin. interpol would like a talk with him about fraud to murder in europe. mcconnel made sure hes dealing with slime here,and got some jobs while at it,,shows just how low our present admin sees our national face,ive done my homework,and have a file 15 years back on deripreska,this is how trump sees the world to….. best wishes..

  6. A company called Alliant Energy. Has listed the advantages of wind technology.

    The many benefits of wind energy
    Wind is a clean source of energy and a key part of our diversified energy mix.
    Wind farms provide a significant economic value to our customers and communities.

    Adding more wind farms creates good-paying construction jobs and benefits supporting industries.
    Landowners benefit through lease payments and additional roads to access farm fields.
    Local communities and states benefit from increased tax dollars.
    Wind has no associated fuel expenses, which helps provide long-term cost stability to customers.

    Wind energy is competitive with other sources of energy. This is largely the result of continued technological advancements. Improvements in technology have increased the amount of energy each turbine can generate. Turbines and construction costs continue to decrease as the wind market continues to grow.
    It is very clear that wind and solar energy sources do not have the externalities associated with fossil fuels. These externalities include extraction, combustion, and disposal of fossil fuel wastes. However, tax laws, a lack of of environmental regulations, or no enforcement of these regulations make fossil fuels seem “cheap”.

    The fossil fuel cabal bestows their campaign contributions and wining and dining lobbying efforts on to both political parties. The big 500 pound gorilla is the Koch Bros.

    It will take future looking elected officials to seed and germinate these clean energy sources of power across the United States. The Department of Energy along with the EPA in collaboration with high tech, universities, etc., could lead these efforts.

    The Republican Party is a dead end concerning innovation.

  7. The necessary (under all scenarios) transition to sustainable energy is an engineering problem and there are lots of highly trained experts ready and qualified to take it on. The first step in sustainable is just like the first step in fossil fueled and that is find the resources, energy and money.

    Some locales have an abundance of solar energy, some wind energy, some hydro (water and elevation change), some huge bodies of water for offshore wind, some abundant empty space for nuclear, some are stuck with only fossil fuels which used to be a bonanza, but now are a poised to be stranded assets, worthless.

    States have all of the varied resources required. Nations have all of the drooling lobbyists panting to turn the stranded assets into the greenhouse executive bonuses. It’s a standoff.

    There are some losers though.

    All of the humans coming.

  8. Here in Indiana, Earth Charter Indiana is using youth to encourage city councils to pass energy saving resolutions, frequently involving a commitment to do so. They have had some notable successes, including South Bend and Carmel.

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