Under the Big Sky
The Billings Gazette reports that Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is impaneling a Climate Change Advisory Board to find ways to tackle global warming in Montana. In December, Schweitzer voiced his concerns in a refreshingly straightforward and common-sensical way that any American over the age of 5 could understand: "The more oil we consume, the scarcer and more expensive the resource becomes," he wrote. "At the same time, the more oil we consume, the more greenhouse gas emissions we produce." Yep, that about sums it up.
As it happened, the story appeared a day after Grist published a paean to Schweitzer written by Rick Bass -- Sierra Club author and self-described "quasi-misanthropic backwoods hermit." Bass hearts the guvnah, albeit with a few reservations, painting him as "a new breed of Democrat" -- "Not quite centrists and not quite populists -- call them Homebody Democrats, muscular as hell, and intelligent too." In short, he thinks Schweitzer is someone we can all work with to protect our values and our valued wilderness.
Bass, a devoted wilderness advocate, senses a sea change in Montana politics, what with Senator Conrad Burns on the hot seat for his dealings with Jack Abramoff and the emergence of clean-cut progressive challengers like Jon Tester. Near the close of his essay, Bass speculates that Schweitzer's election last year may have signaled something more than substantive -- "the first emergence, the nascent reawakening, of prairie populism." Don't know about that. But certainly, the Governor's willingness to get serious about climate change is a big, bold step in the right direction -- and the exact opposite tack of the White House.
Richard Opper heads up Montana's Department of Environmental Quality and was appointed by Schweitzer to put the together the climate change panel. Where the Bush Administration is quick to point to what it claims are the prohibitive economic costs of controlling greenhouse gases, the Schweitzer Administration sees opportunity. The Billings Gazette:
Opper said he expected to begin forming the group early next month. He said other cities and countries that have taken on global warming and energy conservation have seen economic benefits.Now that may not answer all the world's woes, but it still sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Sounds like leadership.
Salt Lake City, for example, began capturing and selling the methane gas produced by rotting refuse in its city dump.
"They're now selling it for something like a million and a half (dollars) profit every year," he said.