Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Rising Tides Of Consequence

Actions have consequences. Poorly thought out actions often have drastic, unforeseen consequences.

The perfect example of these axioms were visible this past week in Arizona, as the state's proposed anti-gay "religious freedom" bill nearly passed into law. As we thoroughly discussed on Wednesday, and throughly displayed in Wednesday's extended edition, the bill would not have protected anyone's religious freedom. It also could have led to severely negative economic consequences for Arizona, from the potential loss of next year's Super Bowl, to the potential loss of jobs from major businesses like Apple & Intel.

In an action that only seemed to surprise the bigots on the extreme right, after being blasted by progressives, liberals, Democrats, and in a pleasant surprise, corporations and even some Republicans, the tide made a signifcant turn and Wednesday evening Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the anti-gay bill. What's more, the firestorm that exposed the heinous Arizona bill also seems to have scared politicians in Georgia and Ohio who've now dropped similar doomed legislation.

As we recently mentioned here, when Democrats and rational Americans stand together, America tends to win. That theory has been proven through growing numbers of wins on major policy issues, and those successes have continued to embolden progressives and liberals. Some Democrats have even begun to go on the offensive against major right-wing boogiemen like the Koch Brothers, as Greg Sargent pointed out yesterday.

Winning is something everyone likes, but like any action, winning has consequences, too. We think it's important Democrats take a look at some of the consequences of our energy policies, before a rising tide of small political victories, relatively cheap oil, and high efficiency technology blind us to the mess we're creating around us.

Even as one of our own staff members is now driving a car that gets over 100 mpg daily, and even as America's position as a world oil and energy leader continues to grow, that still doesn't mean we've solved the problems of our dirty energy economy.

A major oil spill in the Mississippi River just last weekend closed the mouth of the nation's largest interior shipping lane and the Port of New Orleans. Federal regulators are issuing emergency testing guidelines for shipping oil by rail, even as railroads scramble to institute new safety measures.

The pipeline and fracking wars aren't over yet either. As Dave Domina, the attorney for the Nebraska landowners battling TransCanada, assured his clients and the public this week, the fight to stop that pipeline isn't yet a done deal. As Katie Valentine detailed in Think Progress, a second 600 mile pipeline known as the Flanagan South line has aready been rammed through with very little media attention.

Meanwhile, even as cities like L.A. are moving to ban fracking, major oil companies like Exxon continue to push for more fracking almost everywhere - except in the neighborhood of Exxon's CEO - even as more negative consequences of fracking continue to be discovered.

There are some wins, even on the issues of dirty energy. Colorado's Gov. John Hickenlooper successfully pushed through the Colorado legislature tighter pollution rules for oil and gas producers. The world's largest solar power plant opened in the Nevada desert earlier this month, and after seeing what the U.S. did with that power plant, Mexico is now set to build Latin America's largest solar farm to replace an aging, oil-driven power plant.

Every step forward, as a society, is a good thing. That said, if we're going to truly support progress, we must make sure that the political moves we make, as well as those we stop, don't have unintended negative consequences that rise up and drown out any good we might do.

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