Thursday, September 30, 2010

Energy Legislation Math

A few days back, Jonathan Chait linked to an article in The Hill by Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas. The article is another in the long line of off-the-cuff midterms analysis, this one being that the fact that the democrats did not go left enough is at the heart of their midterm woes. Ignoring all the other structural factors working against the dems; mid-term during a first-term presidency, a weak economy, an unsustainable majority made up of normally republican states, Moulitsas eyes climate change as one of those wedge issues that would have tipped public opinion:

"On global warming legislation, a Gallup poll for USA Today in June found that 56 percent of Americans favored “Regulat[ing] energy output from private companies in an attempt to reduce global warming,” while 40 percent opposed. Democrats did nothing."

This ignores the basic structural feature of the Senate, representation is not proportional. The fundamentals of energy legislation do not align with public opinion, even if the public supports energy legislation that does not guarantee mean that victory of climate legislation was an inevitability. Many of the coal-mining states have democrats representing them, including, but not limited to, West Virginia, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Using a chart from the American Coal Foundation, I calculated how much of the public is represented by an alignment against energy legislation in these states. (It should be noted that I have not checked to make sure all of the democratic senators in these states are opposed, though many of these states have republicans representing them so I may only be off a percentage point or two.) With a coalition of these democrats and republicans from the least-populace republican leaning states, the amount of public represented is only 46%. This is a fundamental point missed by most commentators, even if there exists a plurality of public opinion, that does not mean that there is a plurality in the Senate. Plurality in the Senate meaning above 60 votes.

1 comment:

  1. I am from WV. The overwhelming sentiment from the public I have spoken to is that they are more worried about the loss of coal mining jobs than they are about global warming. New "clean coal" regulations are making things tough, in that it's not as easy to produce a cheap product. Coal is tied to the core of what makes the traditional WV economy. It's a scary thing, to wonder what WV would have been like if we didn't have coal and what it could be like in the future if coal becomes no longer profitable.