[Note: This Book Salon is only one hour long]
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]
In the green trenches with Eric Pooley, author of The Climate War.
For three years, former Time chief political correspondent Eric Pooley has followed the political fight over limiting the amount of carbon pollution emitted by the United States — and The Climate War is his blow-by-blow report from the front. Urgent and timely, the book is a behind-the-scenes page-turner for the green set, a detailed explanation of this country’s national inaction on carbon limits. It’s a rich story of scientists, schemers, politicos and hacks, but the main characters are three men who have tried — and up till now, failed — to forever change the way America uses energy and hopefully help stem global warming.
Fred Krupp is an optimistic, pragmatic environmentalist, head of the Environmental Defense Fund and a cell phone call away from some of the most powerful players in the US. Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, whose power company is the third-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in the United States, is an emotional maverick from the “progressive wing of the Fortune 500,” as Pooley puts it. (And he’s a crucial swing vote on climate legislation, capable of rallying the electric power industry for or against a bill.) And Al Gore is Al Gore, though with Obama elected he’s “itchier than he had been in years” for action. Each was pragmatic and wily in different ways. Pooley can be fairly accused of focusing on three of the green-groups’ White Hats to the detriment, for example, of much insider reporting on industry in a 481-page book. But that imbalance doesn’t take away from the pace and relevance of his narrative.
The book’s central question will be well familiar to progressives: why hasn’t Obama, flush with political power, fulfilled his campaign pledge to cap greenhouse gases in the period he has arguably the most political capitol to do so? Not only is this the first major book to carefully probe that crucial issue, but The Climate War does so in sweeping fashion, as the roots of the answer were set long before the Illinois marvel took the hopes of liberals to the White House. Pooley chronicles the birth of the cap-and-trade system for acid rain in 1988; the failure of Kyoto in 1997; the roots of the left vs. center split in the enviro community; the various stalls and spurts during the do-little Bush years; the organization of industries at the end of the Bush administration to support mandatory action; John McCain’s whims and reverses on the issue; and debates on Capitol Hill and within the Obama government over how to best pass legislation
“Somewhat naively, perhaps, I hoped to write a story with a happy ending,” admits Pooley in the book’s foreward — he thought by 2010 Obama would have delivered on his climate promises. But The Climate War instead documents how Rahm Emmanuel promised climate campaigners that passing a bill in the House would pave the way for success in the Senate, but failed to make carbon caps a priority for Obama in 2009. So the book ends with the fate of climate legislation unresolved — a cliffhanger, of sorts.
Pooley, now deputy editor of Bloomberg Businessweek, says getting meaningful legislation on carbon is going to require “profoundly uncomfortable things people are going to have to accept to get this done.”
That could mean big subsidies for nuclear power, coal, and perhaps off-shore drilling.
Pooley joins Firedoglake’s Book Salon for a chat.