Jim Schultz at the Democracy Center has some sharp observations about this struggle. Shultz has been around a lot of fights, from California's initiative wars of the 1990s through Cochabamba, Bolivia's water revolt against privatization. He recounts the story of how the Keystone XL pipeline become a prime issue for environmental campaigners, beginning with Nebraskans who raised the alarm about the harm Canadian oil might do to their water supply. Their cause was joined by climate change activists bent on curbing carbon-spewing fuels who saw an opportunity to push President Obama in election season. Publicity and a mass civil disobedience encouraged Obama to delay the pipeline and then to deny it a permit. Opponents were jubilant while Republicans still think they have been handed a stick to beat the President with, that citizens worry more about gas prices than the hypothetical dangers of global warming. That's where the matter stands today.
Schultz has some thoughts:
My emphasis. That is, election year pressures from strategic sectors (such as some Democratic donors) won't win this battle over the longer term. If we want to move toward policies that guard and preserve the habitability of the planet, we must convince strong majorities that action is necessary and an urgent priority.
Though most citizens (Tea Party die-hards excepted) believe that global warming is happening, less and less of us are concerned enough to want to make hard choices about what to do.
And that is Schultz's point: the Keystone XL project will keep coming back until strong majorities slap it down and additional carbon-fuel exploitation comes to seem unthinkable, perhaps suicidal.
That's the way of democratic decision making. Interested minorities can keep bringing their pet hobby horses back even when majorities think the issue has been settled -- look what we're seeing from the Catholic bishops as they try again to enforce their condemnation of birth control. It's extremely unlikely that fight will help the President's detractors -- he has the people on his side. But on climate issues, the public is not there with us yet. So winning against the Keystone XL won't stick unless the public becomes convinced that ending fossil fuel exploitation expresses their values. Stopping Keystone XL can't seem some kind of worthy but rotten-tasting medicine pushed on them by enviro freaks. We've got a ways to go.
Despite every other legitimate concern, we cannot ignore that our economic and social system is rapidly making the planet less habitable. So I will be posting "Warming Wednesdays" -- unpleasant reminders of an inconvenient truth.