I don’t have the answer but certainly have an opinion.
This week there’s an energy conference in Missoula featuring representatives from three Asian countries, Canada and the U.S. It looks to be covering most of the bases, from coal and oil to wind and solar to nuclear.
Governor Steve Bullock helped to kick off the event, heaping praise on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline.
He (Bullock) said the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline provides an opportunity for the state, and one that can help move the nation closer to energy independence.
“Responsible development of America’s oil resources will play an important part of our energy portfolio for the foreseeable future,” Bullock said. “If done correctly and with the appropriate regulation, long-term oversight and recognition that 100,000 barrels will come in from the Baker area, Keystone does have the ability to add vitality to our state and our communities.”
He also gave a nod to coal.
Bullock said the state’s coal industry currently provides 2,300 jobs and delivers $160 million in new taxes to the general fund each year.
And Bullock isn’t the only elected statewide Democrat supporting the fossil fuel industry. Sen. Tester and all those on the Land Commission, with the possible exception of Superintendent Denise Juneau, pitch the pipeline and continued mining of coal.
But not everyone is happy about this. About 80 protesters, representing Blue Skies Campaign, 350-Missoula and Reinvest Montana, showed up yesterday at UM to bring attention to climate change. The photo above is from the event (courtesy of Jeffrey J. Smith).
Also relevant are some of the comments that showed up on social media when the Bullock story was posted.
He’s worried about re-election. I’m worried, as well. We would be in a terrible place with a Republican governor, terrible.
If you want to win an election, you have to be a realist. Would you rather have a governor called Greg (Gianforte)?
Just how realistic are these concerns? In October, 2011, MSU Billings ran a poll that found 64 percent of Montanans supporting the pipeline, with 14 percent opposed and 22 percent undecided.
Still, I believe history will judge harshly those who continued to advance fossil fuel production in the face of climate change science. We know where Republicans are on this issue and they will be vilified by our grandchildren as the world suffers through droughts and fires and other natural disasters brought on by a changing climate.
So, Democrats, do we accept short-term electoral losses and play the long game in the name of future generations? Do we aggressively pursue a different model on jobs, natural resource extraction and the environment? And will candidates who stand against the pipeline and continued coal development really alienate all those much needed independents and assorted Eastern Montana Democratic voters? Or do we fall back on placating the polls?
If you can answer these questions, faithful readers, it would be greatly appreciated.