Internet yells at David Brooks for idiotic column on clean energy
David Brooks took time out of his busy pretending-to-be-Mitt-Romney schedule to bash green energy. The piece is here; you can read it if you want, I guess. But reading it will probably count against your monthly limit of free Times articles, so, you know.
Here’s how Ezra Klein at the Washington Post outlines Brooks’ argument:
Addressing climate change by pricing carbon — an idea Brooks supported then and supports now — was a bipartisan project in 2003. It became a partisan project because Al Gore thought it was important enough to make a documentary about. Republicans began opposing efforts to price carbon, in part because they hate Al Gore. That left funding renewables research as the only avenue for those worried about climate change. Funding renewables research means funding some projects that won’t work out, and some that might make Al Gore rich. This led to bad publicity that tarnished the whole program.
And here’s how Klein dismisses it:
The passivity of Brooks’s conclusion is astonishing. This isn’t a story of overreach, misjudgements, and disappointment. It’s a story of Republicans putting raw partisanship and a dislike for Al Gore in front of the planet’s best interests. It’s a story, though Brooks doesn’t mention this, of conservatives building an alternative reality in which the science is unsettled, and no one really knows whether the planet is warming and, even if it is, whether humans have anything to do with it. It’s a story of Democrats being forced into a second and third-best policies that Republicans then use to press their political advantage.
It’s a story, to put it simply, of Democrats doing everything they can to address a problem Brooks says is real in the way Brooks says is best, and Republicans doing everything they can to stop them. And it’s a story that ends with Democrats and Republicans receiving roughly equal blame from Brooks.
Here’s how Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research dismisses it (though the full post has a lot more numbers to chew on):
David Brooks is trying to do his best to help the Romney campaign, but apparently he hasn’t been getting the memos. Brooks’ column today is a diatribe against measures to promote clean energy. …
The long and short is that Obama’s investments in green energy have in fact been modest. They have produced some real dividends as Brooks inadvertently highlights with his complaint about the plunging price of solar panels. They have not revolutionized energy production, but what would we expect from an amount of loans and grants that is equal to 0.15 percent of GDP over the last four years and less than one fifth of what we spend each year on oil and gas exploration?
Here’s how Media Matters dismisses it:
[W]e can’t trust Brooks’ unnamed media reports that stimulus grants for clean energy cost “$2 million per job created.”
These calculations are problematic because they often count loans as if they are grants, and assume that all the money has been spent, development is complete and no new workers will be hired. A more accurate accounting of the jobs impact of clean energy investments might note that a Brookings Institution study found clean energy jobs grew at an average annual rate of 11.1 percent between 2003 and 2010, “more than twice as fast as the rest of the economy.”
Sometimes columnists write columns that are wrong in some way or another, and others feel compelled to earnestly and respectfully point out exactly where and how they’re wrong. Other times columns are so wrong that the only way to really capture just how wrong they are is through satire. Finally, there are columns like the one the New York Times’ David Brooks penned today, lamenting the government’s inability to pass meaningful bipartisan legislation to address climate change. Brooks’ argument is so absurd on its face that satire would be redundant.
The Awl has a nice stream-of-conscious take on the weird political argument:
It is Gore’s fault, for being so highly partisan earlier in his career, that Republican congressman refuse, on partisan grounds, to support legislation that Gore supports and that David Brooks supports, too. Democrat Gore backed the poor Republicans into a corner by raising awareness of this issue that David Brooks thinks is important, by promoting good, important legislation like a carbon tax that David Brooks wishes had been able to pass. What were the poor Republican congressman supposed to do? Put aside partisan politics and support good important legislation after Gore had been so highly partisan earlier in his career? That would not be fair, Brooks argues, I guess along the lines of, “but he started it.”
This line of argument was clearly the most fun thing to bash.