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Tensions in West Virginia Echo National Debate: Will Polluters Face Reality?

1:09 pm in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

When a group of Senators tried to kill standards that protect Americans from mercury, arsenic, and other toxic pollution from power plants, 53 Senators stood up for our health and preserved the standards.

Senator Rockefeller

Senator Jay Rockefeller (Photo: Sen Rockefeller / Flickr)

There were many heroes that day, but one really stood out to me: Senator Jay Rockefeller.

Senator Rockefeller represents West Virginia, and though coal companies have often had a stranglehold on state politics, Rockefeller gave a clear-eyed speech from the Senator floor that set the record straight.

“The shift to a lower-carbon economy is not going away, and it’s a disservice to coal miners and
their families to pretend that it is,” he said. “We need to focus squarely on the real task of finding a long-term future for coal that addresses legitimate environmental and health concerns.”

Back in West Virginia’s capital, the Charleston Gazette covered the speech on its front page with a headline declaring: Jay to Coal: ‘Face Reality.’ The paper endorsed Rockefeller’s position with an editorial called, “Go forward, not back, on coal.”

I spent a lot of time in West Virginia as a kid. My grandfather was a minister there, and we attended his services every weekend. I remember how proud he was of his state and its long history of rugged independence. In many ways, West Virginia is a place apart. Its craggy ridges and hollows, music and culture, and long tradition of coal mining give it a unique flavor.

Yet the debate raging in the state right now echoes the tensions running through the 112th Congress and the current election cycle.

Will polluting industries continue to resist public health safeguards at every turn? Will energy companies keep looking backward or will they start embracing change? Will we elect leaders who represent special interests or ordinary citizens?

Dirty fuel companies are pulling out all the stops to maintain the status quo, both in West Virginia and around the nation. They have saturated West Virginia air waves with ads saying coal is under siege by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The truth is coal is struggling because of market forces, not clean air standards. The President of Appalachian Power recently told the Charleston Gazette, “Nobody is building any new coal [plants]. The economics just aren’t there. Gas is just so cheap. … I don’t think anybody is going to build a coal plant, given natural gas prices. It’s just economics.”

You don’t hear many coal executives acknowledging this reality. As Rockefeller said in his speech to the Senate, “The reality is that many who run the coal industry today would rather attack false enemies and deny real problems than find solutions. Instead of facing the challenges and making tough decisions like men of a different era, they are abrogating their responsibilities to lead.”

West Virginians—and all Americans—deserve leaders who will face the facts and prepare for a better, more sustainable future. Leaders who will help coal miners and power-plant operators train for the low-carbon economy. Leaders who will promote responsible energy development and protect our kids from toxic air pollution at the same time.

Rockefeller has proven capable of that kind of leadership. I don’t always agree with him, but I know his vote and his comments last Wednesday will help lead his state into the future. It’s time we listen to that wisdom and elect more lawmakers who can lead us into the cleaner future.

The Power of Running on Clean Energy — Even for GOP Candidates

12:30 pm in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

(image:  kd1s/flickr)

(image: kd1s/flickr)

Super Tuesday turned out to be Groundhog Day: Three candidates saw their shadows and winter could last for six more months. The presidential nomination process may be grinding on, but Congressional races are starting to heat up.

Candidates are zeroing on their messages, and at a time when jobs are scarce and gas prices are high, smart candidates are discovering the power of running on clean energy.

Even some Republican candidates are promising to deliver clean energy to their constituents.

Nevada Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, for instance, is a Tea Party darling who has followed the GOP leadership’s attack on environmental safeguards. Yet he has also been a staunch supporter of clean energy development in his state.
Why the apparent contradiction? Location, location, location.

Nevada is home to both record unemployment and enormous clean energy reserves. The state suffered some of the worst fallout of the housing bust, and anyone running for office since the financial meltdown has needed a laser-like focus on jobs in order to win.

Green jobs are the low-hanging fruit. Nevada currently has over 16,500 jobs in the clean economy — 33 percent more than the oil and gas sector in the state. Between 2003 and 2010, Nevada added 5,411 clean jobs, meaning that the sector grew nearly 6 percent annually even through one of the toughest economic periods in decades.

This growth won’t be slowing down anytime soon. According to a recent Ernst and Young study, Nevada is the fifth most promising state for geothermal and solar power. And a recent SNL energy project database found that construction has begun on 10 solar, geothermal and wind projects, creating jobs, cutting pollution and reducing our dependence on foreign energy.

Yet in 2010, Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle made the mistake of disparaging clean energy and calling green jobs a “scam“. She lost her race to Harry Reid.

Harry Reid, meanwhile, put clean energy jobs at the heart of his campaign. “We highlighted it in everything we did whether it was through our mail program, TV program, Internet program,” said Reid’s campaign manager Brandon Hall. “It was always the message that we led with.”

Reid’s campaign research found that voters were basing vote on how much Reid had done for the state. Clean energy, Hall explained, “was one of the top issues he was able to leverage his leadership position to benefit Nevada. There was investment coming into Nevada in clean energy. And jobs were being created. For us, it was our top-testing issue.” Read the rest of this entry →

Gingrich and Romney Offer the Same Tired Energy Policies

11:33 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Pipelines! (photo: Stella's Mom, flickr)

Pipelines! (photo: Stella's Mom, flickr)

Newt Gingrich trounced Mitt Romney in South Carolina, ensuring that the race for the GOP nomination will likely continue for weeks to come. The Republican establishment may have settled on Romney, but voters keep throwing their support behind the anti-Romney — whichever candidate of the moment sounds as different from the supposedly “moderate” Massachusetts governor as possible.

Right now, Gingrich is the one generating all the passion. But if one goes by their campaign statements, Gingrich differs from Romney more in style (and personal life) than in substance. Gingrich has more spit and fire in him, but he and Romney share many views, including their similarly outdated approach to energy development.

We’ve heard the same tired ideas during the primaries, and we will hear them again in the Republican response to the State of the Union Address on Tuesday night: candidates offer plenty of attacks on Obama, but no new vision for America’s energy future.

Gingrich may be the man who wrote the book, Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less: A Handbook for Solving Our Energy Crisis, but Romney is just as eager to rely on the same fossil fuels we’ve been using for the past 100 years. Romney’s energy blueprint, included in his “Believe in America” economic plan, calls for flinging open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to energy companies, sinking wells into the deepwater, and expanding fracking in the Marcellus Shale, despite a long list of environmental and public health concerns (not to mention small earthquakes).

Neither Romney nor Gingrich has a fresh plan for an energy future built on innovation and cutting-edge technology. Neither one talks about how better-performing cars are putting 150,000 Americans to work right now and helping slash our oil addiction at the same time. Neither one trumpets the fact that American engineers are already making breakthroughs in the next generation of solar technology. And neither one of them urges America to lead what has been <a href=”estimated as the $243 billion global clean energy market. Read the rest of this entry →

Huntsman Must Change Strategies to Rise

12:02 pm in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Former Governor Huntsman has once again said he accepts the reality of climate change. He told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour on Sunday: “Let me make it crystal clear. I’m on the side of science in this debate.”

He is now the only GOP candidate for the White House who stands by climate science. All the others have denied it from the start or changed their positions once they got in the race. Even Huntsman had a temporary lapse a few weeks ago, but he quickly cleared up any doubt that he sees climate change as a threat and believes humans have caused it.

Huntsman knows this position sounds reasonable to the moderate voters who will sway the presidential election. A recent Pew poll found that 63 percent of independents agree there is solid evidence of rising temperatures. And more than six-in-ten moderate and liberal Republicans say there is solid evidence of global warming.

But in the GOP primary circus, science gets no respect and Huntsman gets no love. Nearly every other candidate has been the flavor of the week, except for Huntsman. How can he finally get his day in the sun? By reminding voters his is a stable, consistent leader who doesn’t flip.

Huntsman hasn’t captured the limelight yet because he looks too much like Romney. He is another conservative – but not Tea Party, Mormon governor with a background in business. At a time when voters and party leaders are looking for the anti-Romney—even former RNC Chairman Michael Steele said of Romney “the brother just can’t bake the cake”—you can’t win by being more Romney than Romney.

Huntsman has to distinguish himself, and he can do that by emphasizing the very thing his opponent lacks: steadfast conviction.

Take the issue of climate change. In June Romney told a crowd: “I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that… And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases.”
But then Romney’s commitment to scientific fact went the way of his positions on health care reform and collective bargaining: it flipped. In October 2011, he said: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

Huntsman, meanwhile, acknowledged the threat of climate change when he was governor of Utah and he acknowledges it now that he is a candidate for the White House. He holds his convictions for more than a news cycle and that counts for something these days. Our country is in upheaval, and voters are wondering where the adults are. Huntsman is an adult. Whether you agree him or not, he represents exactly what he always has. And in the face of a shifting economic and an uncertain future, stable, even-keeled leadership will sound good to a lot of voters.

But Huntsman can’t wait for voters to come to him; he’s got to do a better job of reaching out to them. If Newt Gingrich has stepped into the ring before you got your turn, you know your campaign strategy isn’t working. Huntsman should change it by emphasizing constancy.

Huntsman Flirts with Climate Craziness, then Returns to Scientific Reality

2:03 pm in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Former Governor Jon Huntsman is suffering from a case of always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride syndrome. He has watched as nearly every other GOP presidential candidate has taken a spin with frontrunner Mitt Romney.

First Tea Party darlings Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry had their chance to dance around the floor. Then Herman Cain was delivered into the spotlight with his economics-by-mnemonics plan. Now Newt Gingrich has stepped in for his match with Romney.

All the while, Huntsman has remained a wallflower. The man without an expense account at Tiffany’s or extramarital skeletons in his closet can’t get any love.
Maybe that’s why he tried flirting with the Tea Party crowd this week.

For months, Huntsman has been the voice of reason in a chorus of denial. Back in August, he famously tweeted: “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”

But in a speech at the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, Huntsman started to hedge. When asked if he thought climate change was caused by human activity. He replied: “I don’t know — I’m not a scientist, nor am I a physicist. But I would defer to science in that discussion. And I would say that the scientific community owes us more in terms of a better description or explanation about what might lie beneath all of this. But there’s not enough information right now to be able to formulate policies in terms of addressing it overall.”

The reaction was instant: the blogosphere lit up with reports of this apparent reversal on an issue that has become a conservative litmus test. The next day, Huntsman was out trying to set the record straight.

“Let me be very clear on this,” he said. “There is no change. I put my faith and trust in science. So you have 99 of 100 climate scientists who have come out and talked about climate change in certain terms, what is responsible for it. I tend to say this is a discussion that should not be in the political lane but should be in the scientific lane.”

Either Huntsman’s words were genuinely taken out of context or the response to those words made him realize he has more to lose than gain by toying with the Tea Party.

Huntsman knows the White House will be won with the help of independent voters, not the radical fringe. In August, Huntsman called Governor’s Perry’s climate denial a “serious problem” for the GOP. He told ABC news in August: “The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party – the anti-science party, we have a huge problem. We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012.”

Huntsman has built his brand on this reasoned approach. He is the experienced businessman, governor, and ambassador who projects an air of calm, assured leadership. The trouble is so does Romney, and in a race for the White House, you only need one business leader with moderate leanings. Romney staked out this ground first, and Huntsman will have a hard time pushing him aside.

With Huntsman standing in Romney’s shadow, the public hasn’t gotten a chance to learn as much about him as I would like. He hasn’t been put to the scrutiny that the other rivals for Romney’s spot have been given, and I think that’s shame.

I would like to find more about the single GOP candidate who respects climate science, for on this issue, Huntsman actually represents a majority of independent and Republican voters.

A recent Pew poll found that 63 percent of independent voters agree there is solid evidence of rising temperatures. And more than six-in-ten moderate and liberal Republicans say there is solid evidence of global warming, up from 41 percent in 2009. Meanwhile, 65 percent of all Americans agree that climate change is a very serious problem facing the nation.

Huntsman seems to understand this, and that’s why I hope he gets his chance to be a GOP bride.

The Race That Matters

12:27 pm in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

If you’ve been following the cable news cycle, you’ve seen the latest sensational headlines about the Republican presidential contest: Newt’s surge, Romney’s stagnant poll numbers, Cain’s reassessment of his campaign. Amidst the news of the ups and downs of the horse race, you may be missing some of the most consequential news of our lifetimes.

Two sobering headlines truly deserve to drown out the political back and forth:

The first tells us the problem of global warming is undeniably real. The second tells us the problem is worse than we thought.

The world’s scientists are practically shouting from the rooftops. And yet, the candidates continue to play games, pretending that the science is iffy or that a handful of hacked emails somehow undermine the case for global warming. The science is clear. The thermometers don’t lie. And we are running out of time.

We are facing a serious problem. We need serious candidates. They can start by acknowledging that temperatures are surging, that weak-kneed politicians have caused U.S. efforts to stagnate, and that it is time for candidates to reassess their positions. We need a race to ramp up clean energy and ratchet down pollution. This — not the political ups and downs — is the race that really matters.

Can We Give “Job-Killing Regulations” a Rest?

12:49 pm in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Politicians love to go for the easy applause line and lately, in Washington, that has meant decrying “job-killing regulations.”

Republican candidates for president have all gone for this crowd-pleaser.

  • Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has promised to “tear down the vast edifice of regulations the Obama administration has imposed on the economy.”
  • Texas Governor Rick Perry claims he would halt all regulations and impose a sunset so that they would automatically expire.
  • Herman Cain claims that eliminating regulations would provide “an immediate boost for our weakened economy.”

Even President Obama has at times appeared to buy-in to this notion, ordering every agency to review its existing regulations to eliminate burdens on business, even though such analysis would have been completed when the regulation was first written.

It may be a crowd-pleaser, but it turns out that it simply isn’t true that regulations kill jobs. The Washington Post talked with some of the country’s top economists and experts on the relationship between job creation and regulations. The conclusion?

“Overall impact on employment is minimal.”

The truth is that regulations can impact jobs but don’t have much effect when it comes to employment. That means that a particular regulation might reduce jobs in one industry but create them in another. For example, a clean air regulation might reduce jobs at a dirty coal-fired power plant and create new jobs at a clean-burning natural gas plant. But, looking at the big picture, employers report that only 0.3% of layoffs are due to “government regulations/intervention.” That’s small potatoes compared with the 25% of jobs lost due to reduced demand for products and services in our weak economy.

While they may not have a big impact on jobs, regulations do have a big impact in a lot of other areas, namely in protecting workers, the public and the environment. So, let’s put “job-killing regulations” to rest. If our politicians are looking for new descriptions, how about “life-saving, people-protecting, society-benefiting regulations”? It’s not so catchy, but it has the benefit of being true.

What Election Day 2011 Means for the Environment

2:35 pm in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

This week’s election offered something America desperately needs right now: hope. I know there weren’t many marquee names on the ballot and I know the presidential primary season is getting more attention. But if you look closely at Tuesday’s results, you see a few clear lessons that we should all take to heart.

People Overwhelming Rejected Overreach
Voters almost unanimously rejected overreach by members of the Tea Party. In Maine, voters rejected the Tea Party members’ attempts to end same-day voter registration; in conservative Mississippi, voters rejected attempts by these radicals to define “personhood” in such a way as to prevent many forms contraception; and in Ohio, voters overwhelmingly rejected the Tea Party’s weakening of collective bargaining for teachers, cops, firefighters, and other public employees. The defeat of these initiatives indicate a mounting public rejection of the radical Tea Party agenda. Although environmental initiatives were not on the ballot this week, clean energy and public health safeguards have been top targets of the extremists and we should redouble our efforts in light of this weeks’ tide turn. Tea Party champs who have kept the current Congress in a constant and chaotic unproductive state should take note that the public is growing tired of the antics.

The Presidential Race is Still Up for Grabs
Every race in recent memory has been an expression of a frustrated electorate. Tuesday night’s results confirmed the trend. Although some would say that this is just reflective of the country’s anti-incumbent mood, I don’t think it is that clear. Many incumbents won on Tuesday while many extreme ideas were overturned. Outrage is seemingly being applied deliberately. Therefore, those who have already written their “day after election 2012” stories about President Obama’s defeat should keep watching. It is going to be a long trudge between now and Election Day and it is anyone’s game.

And most importantly,

Dogged Persistence and Old-Fashioned Pavement-Pounding Get Results
Look at Ohio. Last March, Governor Kasich spearheaded a law limiting the bargaining rights of 350,000 public workers. Public employees were pegged as some kind of fat cats whose benefits were the cause of the state’s fiscal trouble (rather than the global economic crisis).

Van Jones recently told a group of NRDC staffers, “When I was kid, we didn’t have ‘public employees.’ We had police officers who kept us safe. We had teachers who taught us how to do math. We had emergency responders who never abandoned us in a crisis.” In Ohio, though, Tea Party rhetoric beat down these folks.

But they didn’t stay down. They put a measure to repeal the law on the ballot. Then they canvassed, rallied, and got out the vote. And once they brought their case directly to Ohio citizens, they prevailed. On Tuesday Ohioans voted to repeal the bill 62 percent to 38 percent.

You may not agree with their position on bargaining, but you have to admire their perseverance. Here was a group cast aside by the Tea Party, the state legislature, and the financial downturn. But they rebounded, they brought their fight directly to the people, and they won.

It’s a lesson I already knew, but I appreciate the reminder. NRDC had a similar success last year. After the U.S. Congress failed to pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation, pundits claimed climate action was dead in the water. Yet when Texas oil interests tried to use a ballot initiative (Prop 23) to block California’s groundbreaking Global Warming Solutions Act, we demonstrated just how much voters care about the issue.

NRDC and our able allies mobilized public health advocates, concerned parents, clean energy executives, green collar workers, national security hawks, Latino community leaders, and others to come out and defend their right to a cleaner, more sustainable future.

Californians defeated Prop 23 by a ratio of 2 to 1. More people voted on Prop 23 than on anything else on the ballot, including the gubernatorial and Senate races. Even counties that backed Republican candidates shot down Prop 23. This was the first time climate solutions were put to a public referendum, and voters sent a resounding message to political leaders.

The lesson I took from that success is the same one I see in Tuesday’s result: you win by showing up and doing it again and again. We won’t get a national climate bill passed in one session. We won’t get California’s law off the ground in one year. But if we keep at it, we will prevail.

And so the environmental community is going to keep showing up until we secure cleaner, smarter solutions for America. We are going to keep defending the health standards from Tea Party attack. We are going to keep promoting smart clean energy solutions.

And we are going to reveal our strength. When I looked at photos of 12,000 people standing in a ring around the White House in protest of the Keystone XL pipeline last Sunday, I saw one giant backbone.

I think President Obama saw it too as evidenced by him sending the State Department back to the drawing board on the Keystone XL pipeline today. I know some folks have given up hope for him, but the book on Obama hasn’t been written yet. His decision to delay stronger smog standards was a huge disappointment, but his clean car standards will slash our oil dependence and cut vehicle carbon pollution in half. His EPA just announced it will set carbon limits on new power plants for the first time ever. And on top of all this, he still has several opportunities to make the right choices.

I still have hope in the President. And I still have faith in the political system. Tuesday’s election results confirmed once again that, as Woody Allen famously said, showing up is 80 percent of success.

That gives me tremendous hope. It shows me that even with a Congress paralyzed by dysfunction and a political system distorted by big money, ordinary citizens can affect change.

Tuesday’s election showed us: This is what engagement looks like. This is what you can achieve when you show up and work an issue until you carry it over the finish line. This is how you win.

Cain’s Other Scandal

11:12 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Herman Cain is having a moment. Thanks to his economics-by-mnemonics plan and his unconventional, smoke-filled ads, Cain recently shot to the top tier of the GOP campaign. He became what Ryan Lizza called the fringe frontrunner.

But when you step to center stage, you realize just how glaring the spotlight can be. Cain’s campaign is reeling from revelations that two former employees at the National Restaurant Association accused Cain of “inappropriate behavior.” His inconsistent statements about the ordeal are only making matters worse.

The harassment story will dominate Cain’s coverage for some time to come, but there is another scandal lurking in the background that deserves attention as well.

Mark Block, Cain’s chief of staff, has been implicated in a host of campaign financing improprieties. And as researchers pore over financial documents, they have found substantial links between Cain, Block, and the Koch Brothers.

Koch Industries own oil refineries and 4,000 miles of pipeline and was named one of the top 10 air polluters in the nation in a 2010 UMass-Amherst report. The Kochs’ political donations are often aimed at promoting their Libertarian views, but they also directly benefit their own profit margins. They have donated millions of dollars to nonprofit groups that fight environmental regulation and seed doubt about climate science. A Greenpeace report called them a “kingpin of climate science denial.” And though green groups tend to paint ExxonMobil as the worst of the worst when it comes to lobbying against climate legislation, Koch outspent even them.

It’s no surprise that Cain would attract Koch money and dollars. He says he doesn’t believe in climate change, and he believes public health and environmental safeguards are “burdensome.” Those are appealing positions for dirty polluters like the Koch’s business interests.

But now we can connect the dots. Cain’s Chief of Staff Mark Block ran the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a group cofounded by the Koch brothers to develop the Tea Party movement. Block met Cain through Americans for Prosperity and encouraged him to run for president. Block then launched spinoff groups from Americans for Prosperity, including Prosperity USA, which gave money and services to Cain’s campaign. It also paid for Block’s trip to meet with David Koch in Washington.

This doesn’t mean Cain was the Koch brothers’ top choice. They fund several candidates who back their anti-regulation, anti-clean energy, and anti-climate action agenda. They were major players in the midterm election and they will likely continue paying to keep their dirty talking points at the forefront of the presidential race.

That is their right, according to current campaign finance laws. But it is also voters’ right to know where the big money comes from and what kind of influence it buys. In the case of the Koch brothers, it seems to advance candidates who give polluters a free pass and disregard how this will damage the health of American families.

Hot Romney, Cold Romney

8:15 am in Uncategorized by Heather Taylor-Miesle NRDC Action Fund

Last Friday, Former Governor Mitt Romney confirmed once again that his political convictions are as variable as the weather. His positions on health care and collective bargaining have been blowing in the wind for some time. Now his stance on climate change has melted away.

Speaking in Pittsburgh, he told the crowd: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

Only months ago, Romney said: “I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that…And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and global warming that you’re seeing.”

Climate denials are a dime a dozen in this year’s GOP race, but in the past, Romney has recognized the threat of global warming. But the past is rarely a prologue for Romney. Romney acknowledged climate change when he wanted to appeal to moderate voters, and he rejected it when he wanted to curry favor with the Tea Party.

These ever-changing positions could do some long-term damage to public health and the environment. It looks like the Mitt Romney who is trying to survive the GOP primary season is working against the Mitt Romney who could actually win the general election.

The next occupant of the White House will be decided by the voters in the middle, not the ones on either extreme. Most of them know climate change is real. A Reuters/Ipsos poll done in September found that the amount of Americans who believe the Earth is warming rose to 83 percent from last year’s 75 percent. More than 70 percent of them believe think the warming is caused partly or mostly by humans.

Then Romney found himself in a race shaped by Tea Party extremism. Governor Rick Perry is a full-throated climate denier. His state is in the grip of the worst drought in nearly 100 years that together with the wildfires has costs Texas $5.2 billion in agricultural losses. But still Perry won’t cry uncle. He refuses to acknowledge the climate change happening all around him.

Rather than providing a counterweight to Perry, Romney decided to join him in Denialville. As wacky as Perry’s climate stance is, I think he actually believes it. Romney should know better. It’s hard to imagine he’s acting out of misguided conviction; this smacks of pandering.

Romney chose a funny week to walk back his stance on climate. Just days before, one of the staunchest climate skeptics publicly reversed his position in the Wall Street Journal. Physicist Richard Muller released a study—funded in part by the polluting Koch Brothers—saying that temperature data confirms the Earth is warming.

We already knew this. The National Academy of Science among others said in 2010: “Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risk.”

Romney risks leaving the crowd behind. His experiments with extremism are making it hard for moderates to buy into the whole reason he is the front runner and not the Tea Party crasher. In the past when Romney’s flip-flopped, he’s just rejected his own policy positions; this time he’s rejecting a scientific consensus.