fresh voices from the front lines of change







Before Rep. Joe Barton literally apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward for the “tragedy” of the “$20 billion shakedown” — otherwise known to the sane as an escrow fund to pay claims to victims of the Gulf gusher — he stressed he was not speaking for the Republican Party.

Fair enough. But he was certainly speaking for conservatism.

And Barton’s astonishing apology to the disgraced multinational oil behemoth lays bare the sorry state of conservatism — an ideology so blinded by hatred for anything associated with liberalism, and so compromised by financial relationships to Big Oil, that it will junk any philosophical principle, ignore all science and reject all common sense to keep America dependent on planet-killing fossil fuels.

Which should disqualify conservatives from any having say in the shaping of American energy and climate policy.

Barton was echoing the argument made by the Heritage Foundation that it was some sort of egregious violation of the limits of executive power to negotiate a voluntary agreement with BP — this from conservatives who back nominees to the Supreme Court that believe in unchecked executive branch powers, and support environmental rules that only ask corporations for voluntary compliance.

Such contortions are not new. Big Oil always makes conservatives tie themselves in ideological knots.

Conservatives back government subsidies for Big Oil, not to mention King Coal and nuclear power, while deriding tax credits when it comes to help renewable energy entrepreneurs.

And most notably, conservatives now trash the leading idea to end dependence on dirty energy and avert a climate crisis, “cap and trade,” when it was originally a Republican idea because, as New York Times’ David Leonhardt reminded us earler this week, a market-based system as opposed to “command-and-control” government regulation.

Conservatism has simply become intertwined with Big Oil. The oil lobby sponsors the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Top oil companies fund leading conservative think tanks The Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute.

But that’s at least a rational form of intellectual corruption. Conservatives also allow their irrational hatred of anything associated with liberalism to send them off the deep end.

How else to explain the hysterical reaction to BP voluntarily taking the bareest minimum of responsibility and compensating the victims of one of the worst environmental disasters in history.

And, more importantly, conservative now smear the most recent attempt at a compromise climate bill because — *gasp* — Democrats actually negotiated with oil companies to find a political path that would speed a smooth transition to a clean energy economy.

Conservatives have taken sides. They are against America ending its dependence on dirty energy.

This is not hyperbole. A featured speaker, and representative of the oil lobby, at CPAC 2007 attempted to argue, “energy independence is not a possible option.”.

If you like being dependent on Big Oil, you can understand why conservatives like Rep. Barton would want to apologize to BP today.

But the rest of us can develop American energy policy without them.

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