Green Losers: The Climate Lobby Has Become An Electoral Liability

  • Date: 07/11/14
  • Editorial, The Wall Street Journal

Tom Steyer became a billionaire by investing in fossil fuels, among other things, and maybe he should return to his roots. He may need the money after blowing at least $74 million trying to persuade voters to oppose Republicans who disagree with him on climate change.

If you want proof that money doesn’t buy elections, Mr. Steyer and his fellow green comrades are it. The San Francisco investor gave most of his money to his NextGen Climate Action Super Pac, which spent almost exclusively for Democrats. Environmental groups including NextGen spent $85 million to support President Obama ’s green agenda, especially his regulations targeting coal for extinction.

They didn’t even get a lousy T-shirt, and they aren’t taking it well. “Despite the climate movement’s significant investments and an unprecedented get out the vote program, strong voices for climate action were defeated and candidates paid for by corporate interests and bolstered by sinister voter suppression tactics won the day,” declared Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune.

Venting can be healthy, but self-deception isn’t. Mr. Brune should really blame the economic reality that the U.S. boom in fossil-fuel production is creating high-paying jobs and reducing energy costs across the economy. By contrast, Mr. Obama’s green agenda has created few jobs and raised costs for millions of Americans.

This year’s environmental debate boiled down to Democratic support for Mr. Obama’s climate rules and green subsidies against full-throated Republican support for energy production of all sorts, including coal, oil and natural-gas fracking, more pipelines and greater fossil-fuel exports. These GOP candidates won nearly everywhere.

In Kentucky Mitch McConnell made opposition to the “war on coal” the centerpiece of his campaign. He won what was expected to be a close election by 15 points. Coal-supporting Shelley Moore Capito became the first GOP Senator in 55 years from West Virginia, where voters also ended the 38-year career of Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall, who couldn’t separate himself from Mr. Obama’s energy policies.

Nearly every one of Mr. Steyer’s favored candidates—in Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Wisconsin and Maine—lost. New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen won, but Scott Brown had her playing defense for supporting a cap-and-trade carbon tax. A recent Gallup poll found that climate change ranked last among 16 issues that voters cared about in the midterms.

It’s even possible that Mr. Steyer’s money helped Republicans. He and the greens have made opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline a litmus test of their support for Democrats. Mr. Obama has in turn dutifully delayed approving the pipeline, despite multiple government reports showing no net effect on the climate. But the delay has raised Keystone’s national profile and made it a wedge issue in Senate campaigns.

Republicans campaigned for the project that polls show has 70% approval, using Keystone to appeal to union workers and voters without college degrees. Colorado’s Cory Gardner hammered Democratic Sen. Mark Udall on his refusal to support Keystone. He’s now Senator-elect Gardner.

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