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Scott Brown and Climate Change

January 20, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Yesterday I mentioned Sen. Byron Dorgan’s [D, ND] prediction that Congress would give up on passing climate change legislation this year.

Republican Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts’ Senate election seems to put the nail in the climate-change-bill coffin . “I oppose a national cap and trade program because of the higher costs that families and businesses would incur,” Brown’s campaign website states.

Instead, he wants to boost the use of new energy sources without tamping down on the polluters. “In order to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, I support reasonable and appropriate development of alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal and improved hydroelectric facilities.”

There is a line of thinking that if the Democrats abandon health care reform because of the Brown win, the climate bill’s chances could be revived because the Democrats would be looking for a major legislative victory to tout heading into the 2010 elections.

But I’m not so sure. Political victories, on either side, generally create a snowballing effect and lead to more victories. Momentum is key here. If the Democrats were able to score a progressive victory that energized their base, like a strong health care bill or real financial reform, they could likely ride public support onto other progressive victories, like climate change legislation. But if health care dies, the Republican base will get the energy boost and congressional Republicans will have the winds at their backs to block just about anything the Democrats might try to do.

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