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Celerity

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Journal Archives

Texas Gets Lay'd: How the Bush Family turned off the lights

Maybe because Texas gave us that wet-lipped huckster Ted Cruz, you think the state deserves to freeze in the dark.

https://www.gregpalast.com/texas-gets-layd-how-the-bush-family-turned-off-the-lights/



I get that, but it’s not their fault, a least not the victims burning family heirlooms to stave off frostbite. “What happened was entirely predictable,” power distribution expert attorney Beth Emory said of the blackouts. She told me this twenty years ago, after the first blackouts in Texas and California, following the cruel experiment called “deregulation” of the power industry. Until 1992, the USA had just about the lowest electricity prices in the world and the most reliable system. For a century, power companies had been limited by law to recovering their provable costs plus a “reasonable,” i.e. small, profit. But in 1992, George H. W. Bush, in the last gasps of his failed presidency, began to deregulate the industry. “Deregulate” is a misnomer. “De-criminalize” describes it best.

With the “free market” supposedly setting the price of power, Texas-based Enron was freed to use such techniques as “Ricochet,” “Get Shorty,” and “Death Star” to blow prices through the roof when weather shut down power plants. (This week was not the first game of Texas Gouge’m.) Enron was not the only Lone Star power pirate. Houston Power & Light was “ramping” plants up and down at odd hours which whistleblowers said was deliberate. Bush’s son “Shrub,” Texas Gov. George W. Bush, signed a law in 1999 forcing the state’s hapless customers to accept any price the “free” market dictated. Enron’s CEO Ken Lay showed his appreciation by becoming Baby Bush’s number one donor for Dubya’s presidential ambitions. This week, wholesale electric prices in Texas, normally $50 per megawatt-hour, busted over $9,000/MWHR. Again. It happens with every cold snap and heat wave. One shop owner, Akilah Scott-Amos, showed the Daily Beast her electric bills which blew up from $34 per month to $450 for a single day.


On Saturday, February 13, 2021 Griddy customer Akilah Scott-Amos was charged $456.78 for a single day’s power. By Monday, her bill had increased by another $2,500. Last year, she paid $33.93 for the entire month of February.

CUTTING THE POWER LINES TO TEXAS

Every state in America interconnects their power lines to provide back-up in case of emergencies. Except Texas. To prevent federal regulation, Texas deliberately has refused to connect its lines to other states. The federal government, which has restored a modicum of protection, can only police utilities that are connected to the national grid. So, Texas literally cut itself of from the rest of the USA’s electric system. Texas Governor Greg Abbott blames windmills for this week’s deadly disaster — some wind farms froze. But California is sitting on massive excess power capacity. With 80,000 megawatts of capacity, the Golden State often gives away power free to other states. This week, the sun is shining here in LA — and our solar, wind and hydro generators could easily un-thaw Texas if the Lone Star hadn’t been Lay’d by the Bushes. Of course, the rulers of Texas, the beneficiaries of freezer-burn pricing, know this. This week, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Trump’s first Energy Secretary, said, “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.” Well, Rick and Ted can tan in Cancun while oxygen machines in Loredo shut down.

THE SOLUTION: DEMOCRACY

I didn’t need a crystal ball in 1998 when I predicted that California, Texas, Oregon and Rio de Janeiro would go dark and cold if they de-regulated their power markets. In a series of lectures at Cambridge University, the London School of Economics and the University of Sao Paolo [yes, I had a life before journalism], I said, in academic terms, the screamingly obvious: There is no such thing as a “free” market in electricity. Electricity isn’t a bagel. You can’t skip it in the morning when the price goes berserk nor shop at another electricity store. The alternative to blackouts and price gouging is Democracy. Regulation is merely the enforcement of publicly voted rules to protect the public from economic overlords. This alternative to free market mania was first applied by the man who electrified America, President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Listen to FDR:



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Fighting precarity: a paradigm shift from equality-in-prosperity to solidarity-in-wellbeing

Notes on a political economy of trust





https://progressivepost.eu/spotlights/fighting-precarity-a-paradigm-shift-from-equality-in-prosperity-to-solidarity-in-wellbeing

Contemporary capitalism: a diagnosis

In Capitalism on Edge (2020), I have observed that the nature of contemporary capitalism makes these strategies ineffective for progressive politics. This is because under the conditions of global market integration, the key systemic dynamic of capitalism – the competitive production of profit – cannot be effectively countered by distributive measures and structural reforms. A comprehensive plan for transcending capitalism and eliminating the injustices associated with it (impoverishment, exploitation, alienation and ecological crisis) must thus address all three dimensions of capitalism’s impact:

1) the relational dimension of the unequal distribution of power which generates inequalities and exclusion;

2) the structural dimension of the institutions through which relational injustices occur;

3) the systemic dimension of the competitive production of profit which binds science and human creativity to the profit motive. In what follows, I will address the importance of this third dimension for progressive social reform and will propose some solutions.


The overarching significance of this third, systemic dimension in the functioning of capitalism is determined by the idiosyncrasy of our current modality of capitalism. In its historical development, democratic capitalism (the prevailing form of capitalism in Western societies) has transitioned through four sequential forms: the liberal (entrepreneurial) capitalism of the 19th century, the coordinated (or ‘organised’) capitalism of the four post-war decades, the neoliberal capitalism of the last two decades of the 20th century, and currently, what I have described in my recent book as ‘precarity capitalism’ – a modality that emerged in the early 21st century and matured in the course of coping with the economic crisis of 2008 and the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020. This current modality is marked by two distinctive features. First, global market integration has expanded the scope and deepened the intensity of competitive pressures. Importantly, the global economy can no longer be plausibly described as a space of national economies integrated through trade. It is a system of transnational production networks and supply chains which engulf a multitude of political regimes (from the autocracies of Vietnam and China to the liberal democracies of Europe) and national economic systems (from the state-controlled socialism of Vietnam and the state-managed capitalism of China to the free market capitalism of America).

The ease with which autocratic regimes increase profits through wage repression and environmental devastation further intensifies the competitive pressures on liberal democracies. Furthermore, the IT revolution, or digitalisation, has facilitated automation. This, in turn, has allowed an increase in productivity while at the same time reducing the need for human labour. These features of capitalism began emerging in the late 20th century. As a result, governments across the left-right political spectrum began to undertake a policy shift to adjust to this new reality: they committed to maintaining competitiveness in the global market as a top policy priority. The switch from the growth-and-redistribution agenda of the post-second world war welfare state to a stress on competition in the late 20th century and, even further, to an emphasis on competitiveness in the early 21st century has had a far-reaching societal effect. In pursuit of competitiveness, governments started to undertake the liberalisation of labour markets which allowed them to produce a flexible workforce that could be adjusted to the demands and pressures of global competition. At the same time, governments began helping those economic actors (large corporations) that already had a competitive advantage in the global economy. This increased competitive pressures on the rest of market participants. Governments also reduced social spending as they deemed that in conditions of open markets, where capital flight is easy, the state had lost much of its power to tax capital. This tendency was exacerbated by the financial crisis of 2008 as governments adopted ‘austerity policies’ (via the reduction of government spending and/or income tax increases) in an effort to reduce budget deficits and stabilise their finances.

The combined effect of these technological and policy shifts has been the creation of massive precarity – a state of economic, social, and psychological insecurity. The experiences of precarity vary according to type of employment and level of remuneration. However, overall, precarity as a social condition rooted in real, perceived, or anticipated threats to livelihoods, cuts across gender, age, class, and occupational differences. Precarity is at the centre of the social question of our times and should be the focus of progressive economic and social policy. It is the failure of public authority to counter precarity that has eroded solidarity, diminished citizens’ trust in the main institutions of liberal democracy, and fostered the anti-establishment revolt – the upsurge of populism. Precarity is generated along two trajectories: a personal and a societal one. Along the personal trajectory, precarisation is a result of diminished security of key sources of revenue. This is, typically, a result of job insecurity, the investment of personal savings (including through pension funds) in global financial markets, and the reduction in scope and amount of social security provisions. Along the societal trajectory, precarisation results from diminished investment in public services such as healthcare and education, and from subjecting essential spheres on which societal well-being depends (such as science, culture, education and health) to imperatives of profit-creation.

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Michelle Obama's New Netflix Series 'Waffles + Mochi' Looks Absolutely Adorable

'Waffles + Mochi' teaches kids about food and travel with puppets and brings in a bunch of notable celebrities.

https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/waffles-and-mochi-trailer-michelle-obama



The description for Michelle Obama's new Netflix show is a little Mad Libs-y: Former First Lady Michelle Obama is starring in a cooking-slash-food-slash-travel show with two puppets named Waffles and Mochi, as well as a ton of celebrity guests, among them famous chefs and Jack Black. But we must admit that the first trailer for the aptly named Waffles + Mochi looks like an absolute delight.

As part of the Obamas' deal with Netflix—which has already produced the 2019 documentary American Factory and last year's Becoming following the former First Lady on her book tour—the goal of Waffles + Mochi is to teach kids about food and eating healthy, but, frankly, this looks highly entertaining regardless of your age. Our puppet friends travel the globe meeting up with the likes of Samin Nosrat and Massimo Bottura to get some lessons in cuisine and culture. They also hang out with Gaten Matarazzo from Stranger Things, Rashida Jones, Common, and Zach Galifianakis. It all looks extremely cute (and highly educational).

Waffles + Mochi premieres on Netflix March 16.

The Virginia G.O.P. Voted on Its Future. The Losers Reject the Results. (MAGAt-in-a-box bonus pic)

In a sign of the Trump era’s lingering alternate realities, Republicans in the struggling state party are refusing to move forward with a new system for choosing nominees.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/19/us/politics/virginia-republicans-governor.html


State Senator Amanda Chase, a Trump loyalist who has recently been required to sit in a plexiglass box during Senate sessions after refusing to wear a mask, is one of the top Republican candidates for governor in Virginia

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Republican Party of Virginia has voted four times since December to nominate its candidates for this year’s statewide races at a convention instead of in a primary election. But in a sign of the Trumpian times of denial and dispute in the G.O.P., nearly half of the party’s top officials keep trying to reverse the results and get a primary. The refusal of these Republicans to admit they have lost, or to agree on a set of nominating rules, has fractured a state party already in upheaval: Republicans haven’t won a statewide election since 2009, and they now find themselves with legislative minorities for the first time in a generation. Even the broken windows at the state party’s Richmond headquarters haven’t been fixed for months. Just a month after former President Donald J. Trump left office, Virginia’s drama is the first state-level boomerang of his legacy. Some state Republicans have internalized the lesson that there is no benefit to accepting results they don’t like, and the result is a paralyzed party unable to set the date, location and rules for how and when it will pick its 2021 nominees for statewide office, including the race for governor.

The intraparty dispute has scrambled longstanding political alliances and left Virginia Republicans in the awkward position of defending stances that were once anathema to a party that has been redefined by the Trump era. “It’s very much about not accepting the results and trying to change the rules and game the election,” said former Representative Tom Davis, a moderate Republican who won seven terms in Congress from a Northern Virginia district. “The reality now is even when Republicans pull together, they have a hard time winning, and when they’re divided, they have no shot of winning.” The party’s decision on Dec. 5 to hold a May 1 convention rather than a June 8 primary was widely seen as an effort to stop Amanda Chase, a firebrand state senator who calls herself “Trump in heels,” from claiming the party’s nomination for governor. A primary might help Ms. Chase: She could win the nomination with as little as 30 percent of the vote in a field with three other major candidates and several lesser contenders, But a party convention would require a nominee to win support from at least 50 percent of delegates.

The Republican fight is unfolding on two fronts: whether to hold a convention or primary, and how a convention would work. On the first front, the state party has voted four times on the convention-versus-primary question because Ms. Chase, her allies and other Republicans are allowed to keep forcing the issue under party rules. They have so far been unable to reverse the convention result. On the second front, how a convention would work, Republicans are grappling with a state prohibition on most gatherings of more than 10 people. As a result, the party cannot conduct an in-person convention of several thousand people. Party leaders are trying to change their rules to allow for a convention held across dozens of sites in Virginia. Doing so requires approval of three-fourths of the State Central Committee’s members — a threshold so far impossible to meet because 31 of the committee’s 72 members are holding out for a primary. These Republicans are, in other words, trying to block the ability to have a convention in hopes that a primary will ultimately have to be held. “The fact that there’s a minority faction who lost that are standing in the way of a safe convention to try to get the primary that they couldn’t win fairly — that says a lot about them,” said Patti Lyman, the Republican national committeewoman for Virginia. “All their arguments can be boiled down to: We lost, and we don’t like it.”

Ms. Chase, who was still arguing with less than a week left in Mr. Trump’s presidency that he could yet be inaugurated for a second term, said Thursday that she “doesn’t trust conventions,” which she said unfairly limit voting access for members of the military and others who can’t make it to an in-person site. “If we’re going to win as Republicans, we need to include more of the electorate who vote Republican instead of less,” she said. “Stop creating so many obstacles for people who would normally vote.” Some proponents of a convention are arguing in favor of ranked-choice voting, a system that has been pushed elsewhere by progressives. The dispute threatens to undercut Republicans’ already-uphill fight in this year’s elections and prolong Democratic control of the state. The party’s squabble centers on a crowded group of Republican contenders for governor that includes one candidate each from the G.O.P.’s Trump and establishment wings, along with two wealthy wild cards. The major candidates include Ms. Chase; Kirk Cox, a former State House speaker, who is the favorite of the party’s elected state legislators; Pete Snyder, a millionaire technology executive who lost a bid for the lieutenant governor nomination at a party convention in 2013; and Glenn Youngkin, an even wealthier former chief executive in private equity who is a newcomer to politics.

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Just 10 countries have already dispersed 75% of all available vaccines, the UN says, 130 have none

https://edition.cnn.com/2021/02/18/world/united-nations-130-countries-no-vaccine-trnd/index.html

(CNN) Just 10 countries have administered 75% of the world's available Covid-19 vaccine supply, while more than 130 countries haven't even received their first doses, according to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

It's unfair, Guterres said, that so few countries should control the bulk of the world's vaccine supplies. To address that inequity, the secretary-general proposed that members of G20 create an emergency task force to promote global vaccine access. "At this critical moment, vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community," he said in a virtual meeting on Wednesday with the UN Security Council.

Around 188 million vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, according to the digital database Our World in Data. Tens of millions of those doses have gone to the United States, China, the United Kingdom and Israel.

Guterres didn't name the 10 countries that have administered three-quarters of all Covid-19 vaccines. But the US is certainly among them -- more than 72.4 million vaccines have been distributed there, and more than 56 million of them have been administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Anti-Vaxxers Wage Cruel War on Pregnant Women Who Get COVID Shot



https://www.thedailybeast.com/anti-vaxxers-wage-cruel-war-on-pregnant-women-who-get-covid-shot



Last week, Michelle Rockwell logged on to Facebook to see her face splashed across a post from someone she’d never met. Two months earlier, Rockwell had lost her baby in a tragic miscarriage, and the post—a collage of text and pictures from her popular Instagram—insinuated that the COVID-19 vaccine was the culprit. “Dec. 21 she got it,” it read. “Jan. 24th, she lost her baby. Another one.” The post was entirely inaccurate. (In her own Instagram post on the subject, Rockwell called it “bullshit.”) Rockwell, a family medicine doctor, had indeed received the vaccine on Dec. 21, but had miscarried almost a month before that. But that didn’t stop the post from spreading rapidly across social media, via pastel-tinted mommy pages and anti-vaxxer Instagram accounts like “cv19vaccinereactions.”

And it wasn’t the first time anti-vax activists had descended on a woman after her miscarriage. Since the first days of the vaccine rollout, anti-vaxxers have targeted pregnant women and those who miscarried, shaming them for getting the vaccine despite no evidence that it has a negative effect on pregnancy. On Facebook groups, Instagram pages, and Twitter threads, they accuse the women of being bad mothers or blame them for losing their babies. “It was heartbreaking. I definitely shed some tears over it,” Rockwell said. “To attack women who’ve gone through so much, that’s just a new low.” “So many women right now have vaccine hesitancy, and are questioning it, and have legitimate concerns,” she added. “And I feel like whoever made this is just preying on women’s fears.”



Questions about the vaccine in pregnancy are not unwarranted: None of the COVID-19 shots have been tested on pregnant women, making the decision to be vaccinated a fraught one—especially for health-care workers like Rockwell, who are at higher risk of exposure to the virus. The CDC says the vaccine is “unlikely to pose a specific risk for people who are pregnant,” and the World Health Organization says it knows of no specific risks that would outweigh the risks of exposure. Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci said 20,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated against COVID-19 without complications. Pregnant women, meanwhile, are known to be more susceptible to severe illness and death if they contract COVID-19.

But anti-vaxxers are preying on the uncertainty that remains. Facebook groups specifically targeting new and expecting mothers circulate stories about people who died after getting the vaccine without the proper context. Anti-vax organizations like Vaccine Choice Canada have circulated fliers with baseless claims that the vaccines contain “genetic technology” that can put developing pregnancies at risk. In the most extreme cases, anti-vax activists directly attack women who lost their pregnancies after receiving the vaccine. One such woman, a doctor whom The Daily Beast is not naming in order to protect her privacy, tweeted in January that she had received the vaccine when she was 14 weeks pregnant. Days later, she announced that she had miscarried. There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine causes miscarriage, but anti-vaxxers leapt quickly from coincidence to causation and descended into the doctor’s mentions to accuse her of killing her child.

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Harry and Meghan Tell Queen: We're Never Coming Back



https://www.thedailybeast.com/harry-and-meghan-tell-queen-theyre-never-coming-back



Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have formally split from Britain’s royal family after informing Queen Elizabeth II that they have absolutely no intention of returning from their new lives in the United States. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex sensationally announced last year that they would be bringing an end to their lives as working royals. Following a year-long review of the new arrangement, and after recent discussions between the family members, Harry and Meghan have told the queen that they believe their decision to quit was the right call.

Buckingham Palace published a statement on Friday morning, saying that the couple has “confirmed to Her Majesty the Queen that they will not be returning as working members of the Royal Family,” and that, while the remaining royals are “saddened by their decision,” Harry and Meghan will always “remain much loved members of the family.”

Those warm words were followed up by confirmation that the couple will be stripped of their “honorary military appointments and royal patronages,” which will be given to loyal family members. Harry and Meghan, who now live in California, reportedly decided to give an interview to their friend Oprah Winfrey after becoming aware that they were going to be stripped of all their remaining royal links. The interview, organized by Meghan, is set to air on CBS on March 7.

The couple announced last week that they’re expecting another child. Shortly after the Buckingham Palace statement was published, a spokesperson for the couple said: “As evidenced by their work over the past year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain committed to their duty and service to the U.K. and around the world, and have offered their continued support to the organizations they have represented regardless of official role. We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.”

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US COVID-19 Death Count 505,309, with 5,303 deaths the last 2 days



https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/




Facebook to ban Australian users from seeing news

https://eu.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2021/02/17/australia-law-has-google-making-publisher-deals-facebook-walking/6785773002/

Facebook said users and publishers in Australia won’t be able to put news on its site. The announcement Wednesday was in response to Australia’s proposed law to make social media companies pay news outlets for their content. The decision means that Australian publishers can’t share or post content to their official Facebook pages. Publishers outside the country can still post content on Facebook, but Australians will be unable to view or share it. Facebook users globally will not be able to view or share news stories from Australian publishers.

In a blog post, Facebook said the country’s policies would have a detrimental effect on publishers. “It has left us facing a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia,” Facebook said. “With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter.” In a separate blog post, Campbell Brown, Facebook’s vice president of global news, said Wednesday that the proposed law fails to recognize the “fundamental nature” of the relationship between the site and publishers. “From finding new readers to getting new subscribers and driving revenue, news organizations wouldn’t use Facebook if it didn’t help their bottom lines,” Brown said.

However, the leader of one group has publicly taken exception with Facebook's decision. The social network's action severely restricts content for Australians, impacting not only news sites, but government health, emergency services and police pages that share crucial information such as COVID-19 updates, Elaine Pearson, the director of the Human Rights Watch Australia, tweeted Wednesday.

"This is an alarming and dangerous turn of events. Cutting off access to vital information in the dead of the night is unconscionable," Pearson said. "Mark Zuckerberg has publicly stated that he doesn't think it's a right for a private company to censor the news and Human Rights Watch agrees. We call on Facebook to immediately lift these restrictions."


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https://twitter.com/PearsonElaine/status/1362200385667039233

Decarbonising America: Joe Biden's climate-friendly energy revolution



What it will take to fight rising temperatures

https://www.economist.com/briefing/2021/02/20/joe-bidens-climate-friendly-energy-revolution



Amid the dust and sagebrush of New Mexico there are 61 rigs at work. The south-eastern part of the state, which sits over the shales of the Permian basin that spans the border with Texas, has over the past decade attracted shale-oil specialists, oil majors like ExxonMobil and innumerable camp followers fixing pumps, selling pipe and hauling the sand used to fracture the underground strata. About 40,000 people in the state now work in the sector; the taxes it generates pay for a third of the state’s budget; and it accounts for about 1% of America’s greenhouse-gas emissions. President Joe Biden’s announcement in January of a temporary moratorium on new leases allowing drilling on federal land has not gone down well in this bit of the Permian; New Mexico accounts for more than half of such onshore oil production. The American Petroleum Institute (API), the industry’s main lobby, contends that the moratorium could cost the state 62,000 jobs. But for all the importance oil has in its economy, even New Mexico is preparing for a new energy era. The Democratic governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, wants her state’s emissions in 2030 to be at least 45% below their level in 2005, which given the recent oil boom means about 60% less than what they were in 2018. Across the state solar farms are being set up to harness the abundant sunshine and charging points provided for electric cars—just the sort of initiatives Mr Biden is seeking to accelerate as he aims to turn the American economy away from fossil fuels once and for all.

In January the president signed an executive order calling for the country to reduce its net greenhouse-gas emissions to zero by 2050, and to that end he wants the electricity sector to be emissions-free by 2035. Angelica Rubio, a New Mexico state representative who has relatives working on oil and gas projects in the Permian basin, acknowledges local resistance to Mr Biden’s decarbonisation goals. “It is drastic,” she says. “But this is the road map we need to take.” She is sponsoring a bill in the state legislature to ease the transition for oil workers. Any encouragement from within the shale patch will be welcome to Mr Biden’s team, which needs all the help it can get. In Europe, as in China, politicians are using industrial policy, regulations, carbon prices and other tools to lessen the risks associated with climate change and secure their place in a global clean-energy economy; some have got a fair way already (see article). But despite having played a key role in the negotiations which produced the Paris agreement in 2015—an agreement that it is re-joining on February 19th—America has to date offered no comprehensive outline of the goals and strategies it will use to tackle greenhouse-gas emissions which, in 2019, were equivalent to 5.3bn tonnes of carbon dioxide (see chart 1). Those emissions declined in 2020 by a staggering 9%, according to estimates from BloombergNEF, a data provider. But as the economy recovers they will bounce back quickly.



The lack of an ambitious national programme is largely down to the fact that America’s Republican Party couples political power with a climate nihilism to an almost unparalleled extent. Donald Trump called climate change a hoax and withdrew from the Paris agreement; his administration put significant effort into trying to roll back the regulations with which his predecessor, Barack Obama, had tried to lower emissions. That they are subject to such reversals is one of the reasons that executive orders and regulatory stances are a poor substitute for thoroughgoing legislation. But Mr Obama had little choice. The vast majority of Republicans elected to federal office reject policies to cut emissions, which is why Congress has not seriously confronted the issue for more than a decade. The power of Republicans in the Senate made it pointless. The problem is made worse by the fact that some conservative Democrats have their own reservations. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, says that he supports climate action. But he rejects the idea that coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, might be permanently removed from the world’s energy portfolio: “Get into reality,” he says. “It’s not going to be eliminated.” The fact that the Senate is split 50-50 between the parties means that, even with Vice-President Kamala Harris’s casting vote, Mr Manchin in effect has a veto over legislation.

Should such obstacles lead to America punting for another decade, it will pay for the privilege. Delaying to 2030 would make the transition to a net-zero emissions economy almost twice as expensive as it would be if started today, with costs soaring to $750bn a year by 2035 and more than $900bn a year by the early 2040s, according to Energy Innovation, a policy group. But today’s urgency comes from greater concerns than fiscal prudence. America’s emissions are not only a problem for the climate in and of themselves. They are also a check on its opportunities to influence the rest of the world’s emissions, which copiously outweigh its own. A decisive American effort to reduce emissions would be a potent signal of solidarity and a great enabler of change. It is unlikely that poor- and middle-income countries, eager to lift their citizens out of poverty, will try hard to curb their emissions if the world’s richest nation declines to limit its own, which are among the world’s largest per person. A vibrant American programme would also guarantee levels of innovation devoted to the fight for a stable climate that easily exceed today’s. America’s wealth, national laboratories, universities, corporate giants and entrepreneurs, if properly harnessed to the task of decarbonisation, will undoubtedly produce novel approaches and technologies that would benefit other nations. And it would be a licence to persuade, shame and, where appropriate, bully. Mr Biden has charged John Kerry, who when secretary of state was an important player in the Paris negotiations, with leading efforts on climate change abroad (see Lexington). If he cannot point to progress at home, Mr Kerry’s job will be an unprofitable and thankless one.

Running down a dream...................

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