You know an environmental initiative is in trouble when even the most extreme “green” groups in Washington State – like the Sierra Club – think it’s bad public policy.
And you really know it’s bad for the state when the reason the greens give for rejecting the initiative is that it does not raise taxes high enough.
That’s the case with Initiative 732 and its so-called ‘carbon tax’, which has generated a flurry of articles and blog entries about in-fighting on the Left over whether the Sierra Club should stay with its “Do Not Support” stance, or change that to the more benign “neither supports nor opposes I-732.”
This minor wording change prompted threats from national Sierra Club officials against the Washington State chapter, forbidding them from making such a change due to “Robert’s Rules of Order.”
Don’t laugh, we are not making this up.
As described in the Seattle Weekly, “Since the Carbon Washington campaign was first launched last year as an initiative to the legislature, it’s been mired in political controversy – and not only because, by enacting a tax on carbon emissions, it pits environmentalists against the fossil fuel industry. The ideological conflicts surrounding its approach to climate policy have also been drawing stark battle lines between different environmental groups – and, it’s becoming more and more clear, within those groups, as well.”
Indeed, as Shift has written before, here and here, I-732 has exposed a deep rift in many normally united liberal groups in our state. From the State Democrat Party, to the State Labor Council, to the Washington Environmental Council, to the Sierra Club, they are all bunched up in knots explaining why they are not supporting a carbon tax.
One local Sierra Club leader tried to suggest that its position “‘is consistent…with the Club’s commitment to inclusion and equity’ — something that the Sierra Club, both local and national, has been emphasizing more and more in recent years. ‘We’re committed to ensuring that the communities most affected by pollution and climate change guide our climate policy, and that we’re listening to what they want rather than telling them what they need.’”
That load of…spin didn’t sit well with a local activist, Erika Shriner, who quit the group over the dispute, reportedly saying that the Sierra Club “has ‘put politics ahead of addressing climate change. And that is a tragedy. It is an absolute tragedy.’…What Shriner hears from these kinds of arguments ‘is essentially that climate change is not a big enough issue to stand alone — that it has to cure other social problems…So if somebody, Joe Schmoe, came up with this incredible program that would take a bite out of climate change, you mean to tell me that the Sierra Club — an environmental organization — would not support it because it failed to go through this one step?…It just doesn’t compute. No, [I-732] is not perfect. And no, it doesn’t do everything. [But] if we wait for perfection,’ she says, ‘We’re going to be on fire long before that…There was a point where I was crying about this. I am a 20-year climate activist. To me, it’s everything.’”
Of course, the real tragedy will be if Washington voters don’t see through this charade, and refuse to damage our state’s economy with a feel-good measure that will do nothing about climate change, but will drive up energy costs for everyone who lives here.