Is President Obama waging a war on coal? Republicans say yes. Democrats deny it. Here’s what Bill McKibben, self-styled leader of America’s “fossil-fuel resistance,” has to say: “Recently, I had a long talk with an administration insider who kept telling me that, for the next decade, we should focus all our energies on ‘killing coal.’” Sounds like a war to me.
That wasn’t good enough for McKibben, who insisted that the administration would have “to put the same sort of thought and creative energy into killing oil and natural gas, too.” Now that’s creativity. Energy independence? “Last century’s worry,” says McKibben.
Here’s where things get interesting. McKibben muses aloud about bringing moderate Democrats to heel on climate change by starting a third party. Or maybe he’ll just link his movement up with the existing Green party, which McKibben says had the “soundest platform” in the last election. Green parties are influential in Germany and Australia, of course, but those are parliamentary systems. McKibben acknowledges that peeling his followers off into a green third party could be self-defeating in an American context.
Yet McKibben rolls the idea around a bit longer. A third party strategy might not work quickly enough to save the planet from meltdown he says, implying that it’s strictly a question of timing. Before dropping the topic, McKibben makes it clear that he’s still looking for “some way to make a third party truly viable.”
A harmless thought experiment, or a carefully calibrated political threat? The latter, I’d say.
I’ve written about the danger that McKibben’s fast-growing climate movement poses to the Democrats (here and here). Now McKibben is touting the latest development in this Democrat versus Democrat saga. His close ally, billionaire donor Tom Steyer (who just hosted an Obama fundraiser), has announced his intention to spend as much of his fortune as necessary going after Democrats who are insufficiently desperate about climate change. “The goal here is not to win,” says Steyer. “The goal here is to destroy these people.” Now that’s the sort of “creative” rhetoric McKibben’s been looking for, and the sort of financing a prospective third party could use.
McKibben ends with a tribute to his senator, Bernie Sanders (Socialist, Vt.), who he says is the closest thing he has to a political guru. According to McKibben, Sanders is locked in “the same weird dance” with the Democrats as he is. It’s dance well worth watching.