On Leadership
Video | PostLeadership | FedCoach | | Books | About |
Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Deborah Ancona

Deborah Ancona

Deborah Ancona is the Seley Distinguished Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Faculty Director of the MIT Leadership Center.

Time for old-fashioned horse trading on carbon

Q: Now that even China has put a price on carbon emissions, the U.S. is the only major economy yet to take action on global warming. Why does this issue seem to defy political leadership? Who, in your opinion, is MOST responsible for the leadership failure--President Obama and Senate leaders for not forcing a deal? Republicans unwilling to consider anything that might raise energy prices? Coal and oil state Democrats? Republican moderates who bowed to conservative pressure?

There is no simple answer here, it is not easy to parcel out responsibility as if one were cutting up a pie wanting to serve the right-sized piece to each culprit. In any case singling out one person or institution to blame seems counterproductive and feeds our current frenzy to identify the single demon and vilify him. Take BP for example.

In fact, the problem is more complex, widespread, and interconnected than a single blame allocation would allow. Rather if one pulled on one cord of blame it would be tied to another and another and another. While we all chastise the President and the Senate for not taking action, we put them in a bind. We want plentiful oil at low prices with no reliance on foreign oil while simultaneously clamoring for progress on global warming with no additional expense. Since it is impossible to deliver on this politicians don't move for fear of their jobs come election time. Ditto the coal and oil states whose constituencies want jobs. Then there is the economy, everyone is afraid to raise prices and cut jobs when the recession is so severe.

But wait, isn't this what leaders are supposed to do? Aren't they supposed to stand up for what is right no matter the consequences? Aren't they supposed to reach across the aisle, cooperate with business, spur innovation in the energy sector, and make those tough stands? Where is Jimmy Stewart coming to save the day as he did in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"? Yes, they are supposed to act and it is disappointing that we seem to have a dearth of leaders willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.

So, perhaps a better solution is not to wait for the hero leader who will go out on a limb and somehow lead us to the promised land. Perhaps there is a reason that Jimmy Stewart was an actor reading a script. Perhaps another way to go is for all of us to wait until the mid-term elections are over and the political stakes a bit lower, then get members of both parties off together away from the glare of the television lights. Let them do some old fashioned horse trading, or energy negotiating, with a commitment to move forward. Let them show the American people how much other countries pay for gas and how others are leaving us behind in the race for solar, wind, and nuclear power. Let them take a stand together to work on this issue along with regulation, the economy, and immigration. Unfortunately, collaborative leaders are almost as rare as hero leaders and almost as likely to get sacrificed while the rest of us point fingers and continue to clamor for improvement with no sacrifice.

By Deborah Ancona

 |  August 4, 2010; 7:38 AM ET
Category:  Failures , Government leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Climate change legislation paralysis | Next: Even without legislation, Obama is leading on energy


Please report offensive comments below.

Ms. Ancona said, "Now that even China has put a price on carbon emissions, the U.S. is the only major economy yet to take action on global warming."

Here link (even China) took me to an article that didn't say this at all. It said, "The consensus that a domestic carbon-trading scheme is essential was reached, but a debate is still ongoing among experts and industries regarding what approach should be adopted… But with rising domestic energy demand, administrative measures are too expensive for the country to meet its future energy conservation targets.”

This is EXACTLY where the U.S. is. Ms. Ancona's lead-in statement appears to be a strawman argument.

Posted by: daisym | August 9, 2010 7:15 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Well, I guess the posts here tell you everything you need to know about why we don't have a responsible climate policy in the United States. Because everyone thinks everything is political. If the "liberals" are for it, well then, goddamn it, I'm against it! It doesn't matter if we are talking about science or anything else.

Posted by: fmjk | August 5, 2010 10:37 PM
Report Offensive Comment

My trees, grass, tomatoes and poison ivy are loving all this carbon. I haven't see it so lush in years.

Posted by: Independent109 | August 5, 2010 7:23 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Why do these liberals keep trying to revive this dead horse? The entire global warming scare is a hoax. This hoax was created to be able to levy another tax or taxes on people in order to bring us into some new liberal world order. I saw an interview on a French television program several months ago of some half baked President of some African country and he was already looking forward to receiving his cut of the spoils from the "developed nations" to compensate him for the damage caused to his country by global warming.

Global warming does not exist, even in the minds of global warming alarmists, without the prospect of additional taxes. Taxes are to global warming as fusion is to a star.

Posted by: tmonahan54 | August 5, 2010 7:05 PM
Report Offensive Comment

"isn't this what leaders are supposed to do? Aren't they supposed to stand up for what is right no matter the consequences? "

They are our elected representatives, and they are supposed to follow the will of the people bounded by the constitution.

The idea that the people we elect have special knowledge that makes them better than the average person is a particular conceit of progressives. It's obnoxious and wrong.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | August 5, 2010 6:53 PM
Report Offensive Comment

I haven't bothered to read this dame's scribblings but those interested in finding out how all this global climate change talk and scam began need to read,online,the current 'Weekly Standard'.

Posted by: sperrico | August 5, 2010 3:43 PM
Report Offensive Comment

It just blows my mind how intelligent people in academia are actually buying this entire lie about carbon and climate change. Its about control and taking away personal freedom... there are excellent reasons for using less carbon based fuel/oil - i.e., stop funding terrorism by buying oil from Saudi - but the Greenies don't want us to use natural gas or coal, they want us to quit driving, ride bikes, and live packed like rats in high rises and political correctness rather than build nuke plants, use our gas and coal, and tell the climate change lobby just where to stick it.

Posted by: doublesecretrotation | August 5, 2010 3:29 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Unfortunately our good ole USA is not a very progressive country, especially with respect to climate and energy. Somehow the naysayers have won the PR battle in that climate protection will cost jobs and raise the price of gasoline, which I believe the former is untrue (new technology = more jobs) but the latter likely is (we must stop subsidizing gasoline). We like cheap gas so we can drive SUVs. I also believe Big Oil has a lobby stranglehold on Congress and is making it very difficult to implement climate policies. We should be investing heavily in new energy technologies NOW, but we drag our feet. I am afraid if any politician was brave enough to forge ahead with energy he/she would be railed by the Tea Party, Palin and similar groups that specialize in distortion but seem to have the public's ear nonetheless. The mood seems to be drill baby drill and burn baby burn at all costs. It will take a major climate catastrophe to get the majority of Americans to wake up to climate change. It's coming, but unfortunately it's not likely to hit the fan until our children become middle aged.

Posted by: citizen4truth1 | August 5, 2010 11:39 AM
Report Offensive Comment

I think old Frank pretty well summed up Deborahs thoughts on this matter. In fact I think he made more sense then she did.

Posted by: dcochran1945 | August 5, 2010 10:39 AM
Report Offensive Comment

i am thankful for i have met You, Professor. greetings to the CAptain and Crew and Staff and Personell of this LeaderShip. i am on board with Astronomy and Planetary Science!

Posted by: frankwithguest | August 5, 2010 6:05 AM
Report Offensive Comment

i am sorry, is there any Mud-Blower, anybody Exhaling into Mud? what about Aphrodite in the Shell for a CLoth? why did the sons of Noah change his cloths, Professor? in the Solar System Maldek is now Asteroid Belt, which element is the Solar System today, Professor, in the periodic table?

Posted by: frankwithguest | August 5, 2010 6:02 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Sirius, Arcturius, Orion, Pleiades, Sagittarius, Andromedea? where are the dough and mud from, Professor? who did establish CARBON life on EArth? is there any Dough-Blower, Dove-MAker, Horse-Whisperer, Professor?

which element does give how many electrons to be a CARBON in the periodic table, Professor, with how much amount of energy?

Posted by: frankwithguest | August 5, 2010 5:56 AM
Report Offensive Comment

Professor, which civilization is CARBON from?

Posted by: frankwithguest | August 5, 2010 5:40 AM
Report Offensive Comment

India? Africa?

Posted by: frankwithguest | August 5, 2010 5:38 AM
Report Offensive Comment

horses dont eat the springs of the trees, horses are different than goats, and the bones of the cars are not from tree trunks, right? there are Nitrogen, Hydrogen and Oxygen, from Norway from Israel and from China, right? which civilization is Carbon from? Greece?

Posted by: frankwithguest | August 5, 2010 3:45 AM
Report Offensive Comment

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company