A Jim Inhofe Victory Lap

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 3 2011 9:30 AM

A Jim Inhofe Victory Lap

Early Wednesday evening, I stopped by an award reception for Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. The award was coming from the Cooler Heads Coalition, a merry band of climate change skeptics who meet monthly (it used to be biweekly) to hash out a strategy against environmentalism.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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Some of the coalition members sent representatives; most of the people I talked to were just energy industry people who were fond of Inhofe. A natural gas investor from Oklahoma waxed positive to me about all the new innovations that were making fracking safer, and even making it safer to frack for oil, not just natural gas. I asked how to get more information, but he cautioned me: "Some folks are careful about answering the phones now, because they don't want to talk to a fake David Koch."

The award went out shortly after Inhofe got to the party. He was introduced by Myron Ebell, director of global warming policy at the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, who offered some context to the political toxicity of cap and trade.

"In addition to a Democratic president and a strong Democratic majority, a number of corporations provided colossal amounts of money and lobbying muscle to push cap and tax," said Ebell. "It became a classic example of the Ralph Nader view of the world -- big corporations versus the people." But: "I want to point out the obvious: They lost and we won. The forces of darkness have been driven from the field. We must not go forth and defeat the regulatory onslaught coming from the other end of Pennsylvania Ave... or, as someone more cleverly remarked to me, we must now go after the Death Star."

Inhofe accepted the award with a brief, wistful speech. He remembered heading to a 2003 climate change meeting in Europe with Ebell.

"I went in there and they had my picture on all the telephone polls, 'Wanted,'" he said, beaming with pride. "This was right after I'd said global warming was the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people. When we left, we brought all the posters back and used them for fundraisers."

"I've got an original ," said Ebell.

"You'd better hang onto it!" said Inhofe.

Inhofe warned the crowd that Democrats would use a two-year delay on EPA regulations as a distraction as their EPA went to war with industry anyway. "We can't let that happen," he said. "Now is the time to be alert."

Back on the Hill, Inhofe was winning Democratic support for a bill that would restrict the EPA's authority.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.