I am sympathetic with those young people who protested, and even volunteered for arrest, to protest the construction of Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. But their cause was lost from the start. After all legal challenges failed, tar sands crude now flows through the completed pipeline. Still, much good can come from raising the political temperature to educate the citizenry on the climate crisis, tar sands infrastructure part of the problem, not the solution.
What has not been useful in this political season is the focus of progressive political pressure and ire on Democratic officeholders, while Republicans sit comfortably in their blinkered stance of climate science denial and do-nothing response to carbon pollution.
Case in point. Last April, the Minnesota Senate voted on the following resolution: “The legislature finds and declares that greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities are the leading cause of climate change,” a straightforward statement of fact. Yet it was voted down on a party-line vote — all Democrats for, all Republicans against.
That is all Minnesota citizens need to know about shameful Republican denial, but there is plenty more. Greener electricity standards for the state gained the support of every Democrat in the House and Senate, but Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka would not even hold hearings on the bill. The word “hearing” is telling, as he and his party have formally decided not to listen to, never mind act on, the distressing facts of the climate crisis.
The sad political fact is, ask any Republican officeholder today, top to bottom, their plan to deal with the climate crisis and the answer is resolute silence. Meanwhile, Minnesota farms flood or fail, the governor rightly sending taxpayer help, the financial tip of a very large melting iceberg.
Gov. Tim Walz was right to push the levers he had, making Minnesota the 15th clean car state in the nation, a step toward stanching oil demand, which will bring it from somewhere somehow, including now many more intrusive oil trains.
Minnesota is facing a precarious climate future, as most young people know, which is why some are willing to place their bodies in front of a legal pipeline project. Meanwhile, protesters ignore the seamless Republican support for that pipeline and for all fossil fuel infrastructure.
In the end climate success is technical, as in the stunning growth in electric vehicles and clean energy storage, and political, not protest. Real progress lies in President Biden’s proposed climate plan, major portions written by Minnesota’s Democratic Sen. Tina Smith. Once again climate progress faces seamless Republican opposition while Progressives cry that the plan is not enough.
Progressives, if you want to protest, Republican officeholders are the place to start. But the far better strategy is to pragmatically organize, as a resolute Stacey Abrams did in Georgia, to vote out Republican intransigents as payback for the party’s inexcusable silence about your future.
Remember, Progressives, what could come after a Gov. Walz is not a greener Gov. Walz, but a bright red Gov. Gazelka, who has proven he and his party will do everything they can to thwart climate progress.
James P. Lenfestey is a former editorial writer for the Star Tribune covering education, energy and the environment. He lives in Minneapolis.