The Washington Post

Environmental groups face their future in climate-change debate
The Washington Post

On Thursday, some of the country’s most respected environmental groups – in the midst of their biggest political fight in two decades – sent a group of activists to Milwaukee with a message. We’re losing.

They put on what they called a « CarnivOil » – a fake carnival with a stilt-wearing barker, free « tar balls » (chocolate doughnuts), and a suit-wearing « oil executive » punching somebody dressed like a crab. It was supposed to be satire, but there was a bitter message underneath: When we fight the oil and gas industry, they win.

A year ago, these groups seemed to be at the peak of their influence, needing only the Senate’s approval for a landmark climate-change bill. But they lost that fight, done in by the sluggish economy and opposition from business and fossil-fuel interests.

Now the groups are wondering how they can keep this loss from becoming a rout as their opponents press their advantage and try to undo the Obama administration’s climate efforts. At two events last week in Wisconsin, environmental groups seemed to be trying two strategies: defiance and pleading for sympathy. Neither one drew enough people to fill a high school gym.

“What was revealed by the last year or two was that the energy industry hasn’t even had to break a sweat yet in beating this stuff off. Our side did absolutely everything you’re supposed to do . . . but got nowhere,” said author Bill McKibben, who co-founded the climate-focused group