Leader Blues

Friday, November 13, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Farm Bureau leads charge

Yesterday we got the shocking news that the Arkansas Farm Bureau was going to follow the lead of the American Farm Bureau, which was following the lead of the petrochemical industry in opposing the climate-change bills working their way glacially through Congress. The Arkansas Farm Bureau’s stand puts more pressure on Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who did not need it. She had already announced her intention to fight the climate bill.

Sen. Lincoln, like the Farm Bureau, is for doing something about global warming but just not anything that could conceivably affect a major economic interest like the oil and coal industries or big farmers. Everyone in fact, except Rush Limbaugh and the editors of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, realizes that atmospheric carbon is heating the earth at a rapid rate and that time is running out for reducing the man-made gases that are trapping heat and altering climate patterns.

Someone needs to do something about it and make some sacrifices, but not us — not the oil and gas industry and its clients, not the coal industry, not the big power companies, not the manufacturers that produce billions of tons of greenhouse gases, and certainly not those of us who buy and pay for their products. Somebody else — say China, or the third-world countries that are starting to generate power for development, or maybe the countries that are clearing their rainforests for development. If it’s going to fall on us to sacrifice, let’s just let our grandchildren fend for themselves. Medical science will find ways to protect them from the new perils of disease, and better engineering will save them from the rising seas and turbulent skies. They and all the other species will just have to adapt to a more dangerous world.

On the other hand, we can begin to do our part as the nation that has paced the world in the production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Show the way, in other words, although we are far behind Europe and a few nations elsewhere that have taken steps to conserve and maximize their energy.

The “cap-and-trade” bill that the Farm Bureau and a combine of energy and manufacturing industries oppose is actually a weak one. The bill that passed the House of Representatives makes concessions to agriculture and energy companies, but it seeks to drive the country toward renewable and cleaner energy. Big polluters would be assigned caps and they could trade credits for pollution emission. The oil and gas companies say the steps they would have to take would raise the cost of oil and gas, which would slow economic growth and be a hardship on families. The Farm Bureau says it could raise the cost of agriculture fuel and fertilizer.

Maybe a little, maybe not. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office computed the effect of the House bill. By 2020, it might cost a family about the price of a postage stamp a day. But if it succeeded in developing a high reliance on renewable energy and drives people and businesses to greater efficiency in their homes, offices and travel, as previous government initiatives like auto fuel-efficiency standards did, everyone will be better off.

And maybe our grandchildren will not curse us.