Coal Barons Meeting Today in Hopes of Ending All Climate Debate for a Generation

-Bumped from the diaries. -Nathan

Today, a bunch of coal executives are congregating for the West Virginia Coal Association annual meeting at the luxurious Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV. One of the primary things they will discuss is the formation of a 527 to take outcandidates who may support a climate change bill. As Roger Nicholson of the International Coal Groupalluded, the coal barons are psyched that they will FINALLY get their voices heard thanks to the Supreme Court's Citizen's United ruling that basically allows them to buy Congressional seats

This kind of news just makes me sick - especially since these are the guys who have scarred WV's landand abused her people. We don't need to wonder what is driving some Senators to oppose popular legislation that would, in one fell swoop, create millions of jobs, strengthen U.S. national security, defund unsavory regimes and protect our environment from earth-scorching carbon pollution. Follow the money.

Clean energy and climate legislation didn't make it through the U.S. Senate this summer, despite the overwhelming scientific and economic evidence, and despite the fact that there almost certainly were more than 50 (aka, a "majority" of) Senators willing to vote for such legislation. First and foremost among those reasons, of course, was the near-unanimous opposition by Republicans to move ahead in this area. In addition, there were several Democrats, mostly from states with coal interests, who were probable "no" votes - and the money helps paint the picture about why.

As the Natural Resources Defense Council's Pete Altman points out, "Next time someone asks why climate legislation is so difficult to move forward, point them this way. Peabody Energy and Arch Coal are prime examples of how narrow special interests can operate in stealth mode to deny climate science and to put the brakes on climate legislation." How do Peabody and Arch buy influence in Washington, DC? Very simple - money. Lots and lots of money funneled into influencing policy and policymakers. For instance:

-- "In 2008 and 2009, Arch Coal ($3.04 million) and Peabody Coal ($14.2 million) spent a combined $17.9 million in direct federal lobbying on energy, environmental and other matters."

-- "The two companies contributed $5 million each to the budget of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity ("ACCCE") in 2008, and presumably have continued to keep their memberships current with contributions in 2009 and 2010."

According to Open Secrets, in 2010 alone Arch Coal has donated $39,500 to Democratic members of Congress and $88,000 to Republican members of Congress. For its part, Peabody Coal has contributed $53,400 to Democrats and $45,400 to Republicans.

I could go on all day about the money flowing to Congress from corporations and PACs with an interest in killing clean energy and climate legislation, but I'm sure you get the picture by now. Despite the overwhelming benefits this legislation would bring to the vast majority of Americans, as well as to the U.S. economy and our national security, a few wealthy companies, driven by nothing more than greed, have spent lavishly to make sure none of this happens. And so far, they've succeeded. The question is: will we let them continue to do so? Personally, my answer is no way!

A Failure of Government

The Senate Democratic leadership have decided to not move forward on a comprehensive energy and climate legislative bill after failing to gain any support from the GOP. It's a failure of government and one with tremendous consequences for life as we know it on this planet. While the bill failed to gain any Republican votes, a number of Democratic lawmakers from manufacturing and coal-producing states were expected to oppose the energy and climate bill.

Instead, Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid intends to move forward next week on a bipartisan energy-only bill that responds to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and contains other more popular energy items. The bill headed to the floor will not include a carbon cap or a renewable electricity standard but will contain provisions dealing with the oil spill, Home Star energy efficiency upgrades, incentives for the conversion of trucking fleet to natural gas and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The story in the New York Times:

After a meeting of Senate Democrats, party leaders on Thursday said they had abandoned hope of passing a comprehensive energy bill this summer and would pursue a more limited measure focused primarily on responding the Gulf oil spill and including some tightening of energy efficiency standards.

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, a champion of comprehensive climate change legislation called the new goal “admittedly narrow.”

At a news conference, the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, blamed Republicans for refusing to cooperate. “We don’t have a single Republican to work with us,” Mr. Reid said.

Democrats said they would continue to pursue broader climate change legislation.

“This is not the only energy legislation we are going to do,” Mr. Reid said. “This is what we can do now.”

Senate Democrats had already scaled back their plans to pursue limits on greenhouse gas emissions, like those in a bill approved by the House last year. Instead, the Senate Democrats had said they would seek a cap on carbon emissions only for power plants. But even that proved overly ambitious.

Even before the proverbial plug was pulled on the energy and climate bill, Timothy Egan of the New York Times had a smart column with choice words for the most dangerous man on the planet today, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma.

Last month was the hottest June ever recorded worldwide, and 2010 is on course to be the warmest year since record-keeping began, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In Senator Inhofe’s home state of Oklahoma, the National Weather Service issued a warning this week of “dangerous heat index values” of up to 110 degrees. A report from AccuWeather.com last month stated that, this year, “no other region has seen the variety of extreme weather” as much as Oklahoma.

Extreme weather. Perfect for an extreme politician, a man who won his senate seat in 1994 by using, as his slogan, the actual words of a cynical strategy to get people to think about anything but real issues: “God, guns, and gays.” Maybe, with this weather, God is trying to tell the senator something.

There's more...

Who is the Worst Offender: The Climate Denier or The Complacent Staller?

This is a pivotal week in the clean energy debate. The Senate will vote on Murkowski’s short-sighted resolution to take away the EPA’s authority to regulate pollution.  As we head into this critical time, it’s not the Inhofe-cloned climate deniers who trouble me - it’s the knowing bystanders who are keeping me up at night. 

Before I start this rant, let me just state for the record that I still think deniers are about as accurate as my three year old is when she is trying to describe quantum physics at her make-believe tea parties (although they are wholly less adorable). The vast majority of these deniers resist climate legislation because they really don’t believe global warming is a problem – yes their heads are in the sand. But for the purposes of the Murkowski resolution, their vote is already lost. 

Lately I am even more frustrated with Senators who recognize that climate change is an urgent challenge, but who sit idly by on the sidelines doing nothing. For me, they raise the fundamental question – Who is worse - those that deny the existence of climate change or those that believe in the upcoming catastrophe and continue to lack focus or alarm? 

Take Senator Schumer for example. He has stated that he thinks the Senate should confront the impacts of climate change. Yet just this week, when leaders should be pushing hard for climate action, Schumer’s support has been tepid at best. On Morning Joe, he showered Senator Bingaman’s energy-only bill with praise, then said, “What do you do about climate change? Kerry has a proposal that has pretty broad support…He is going to get a chance to offer that opinion, and we will see if it has the votes.”  

We are looking for more from our Leaders than a passive wait and see attitude. Senator Schumer is the third ranking Democrat, and that means he needs to do more than wait around to cast a vote.  It’s time for real leadership, which means rolling up his sleeves and making sure a bill passes.  We need him in the trenches.  In fairness, the Senator walked himself back a bit after people threw a fit over his Morning Joe ambivalence.  He has pledged to meet with Senator Kerry on a path forward but until he demands action and puts him ample political muscle behind that call, I am skeptical. 

Exhibit #2 is Senator Rockefeller. As a Senator from West Virginia, he wants the federal government to do a better job of regulating mine safety, especially after the horrifying disaster at the Massey coalmine.  I applaud him for that stance, but here is where I get confused.  When it comes to global warming--something Rockefeller says, “America must address”--he suddenly gets allergic to federal regulation. He wants the Senate to block the EPA from reducing global warming pollution until Congress gets it’s act together. The federal government can and should be involved – today. Just as federal regulation needs to be strengthened to deal with mine safety, we need to let the regulators use the tools on the books begin addressing greenhouse gases.     

And finally, the fence sitters continue to be the best example of willful negligence.  The Senate is going to consider a resolution this week from Senator Murkowski to put the breaks on EPA’s efforts to address greenhouse gases.  There is a small group of Senators - like Collins, Snowe, Pryor, Webb, and Scott Brown - who say they want to reduce global warming pollution but may vote for Murkowski’s resolution to overturn the EPA’s authority to do so. If you think carbon emissions are dangerous, wouldn’t you want to use every weapon at your disposal to fight it? 

When I see Senators backpedalling, downplaying and side stepping climate action, I want to ask them: what are you waiting for? When is there going to be a better time to transition to clean energy? America is watching the cost of failed energy policies literally washing up on our shores. Our nation is desperately in need of the jobs and economic growth that a clean energy economy can provide. Congress has the most pro-clean energy members we are likely to get for several years.  

I think I just answered my own question – which is worse, a climate-denier or a knowledgeable staller…. I vote that someone who fails to act when they know the stakes is much worse.

 

 

Who is the Worst Offender: The Climate Denier or The Complacent Staller?

This is a pivotal week in the clean energy debate. The Senate will vote on Murkowski’s short-sighted resolution to take away the EPA’s authority to regulate pollution.  As we head into this critical time, it’s not the Inhofe-cloned climate deniers who trouble me - it’s the knowing bystanders who are keeping me up at night. 

Before I start this rant, let me just state for the record that I still think deniers are about as accurate as my three year old is when she is trying to describe quantum physics at her make-believe tea parties (although they are wholly less adorable). The vast majority of these deniers resist climate legislation because they really don’t believe global warming is a problem – yes their heads are in the sand. But for the purposes of the Murkowski resolution, their vote is already lost. 

Lately I am even more frustrated with Senators who recognize that climate change is an urgent challenge, but who sit idly by on the sidelines doing nothing. For me, they raise the fundamental question – Who is worse - those that deny the existence of climate change or those that believe in the upcoming catastrophe and continue to lack focus or alarm? 

Take Senator Schumer for example. He has stated that he thinks the Senate should confront the impacts of climate change. Yet just this week, when leaders should be pushing hard for climate action, Schumer’s support has been tepid at best. On Morning Joe, he showered Senator Bingaman’s energy-only bill with praise, then said, “What do you do about climate change? Kerry has a proposal that has pretty broad support…He is going to get a chance to offer that opinion, and we will see if it has the votes.”  

We are looking for more from our Leaders than a passive wait and see attitude. Senator Schumer is the third ranking Democrat, and that means he needs to do more than wait around to cast a vote.  It’s time for real leadership, which means rolling up his sleeves and making sure a bill passes.  We need him in the trenches.  In fairness, the Senator walked himself back a bit after people threw a fit over his Morning Joe ambivalence.  He has pledged to meet with Senator Kerry on a path forward but until he demands action and puts him ample political muscle behind that call, I am skeptical. 

Exhibit #2 is Senator Rockefeller. As a Senator from West Virginia, he wants the federal government to do a better job of regulating mine safety, especially after the horrifying disaster at the Massey coalmine.  I applaud him for that stance, but here is where I get confused.  When it comes to global warming--something Rockefeller says, “America must address”--he suddenly gets allergic to federal regulation. He wants the Senate to block the EPA from reducing global warming pollution until Congress gets it’s act together. The federal government can and should be involved – today. Just as federal regulation needs to be strengthened to deal with mine safety, we need to let the regulators use the tools on the books begin addressing greenhouse gases.     

And finally, the fence sitters continue to be the best example of willful negligence.  The Senate is going to consider a resolution this week from Senator Murkowski to put the breaks on EPA’s efforts to address greenhouse gases.  There is a small group of Senators - like Collins, Snowe, Pryor, Webb, and Scott Brown - who say they want to reduce global warming pollution but may vote for Murkowski’s resolution to overturn the EPA’s authority to do so. If you think carbon emissions are dangerous, wouldn’t you want to use every weapon at your disposal to fight it? 

When I see Senators backpedalling, downplaying and side stepping climate action, I want to ask them: what are you waiting for? When is there going to be a better time to transition to clean energy? America is watching the cost of failed energy policies literally washing up on our shores. Our nation is desperately in need of the jobs and economic growth that a clean energy economy can provide. Congress has the most pro-clean energy members we are likely to get for several years.  

I think I just answered my own question – which is worse, a climate-denier or a knowledgeable staller…. I vote that someone who fails to act when they know the stakes is much worse.

 

 

Who is the Worst Offender: The Climate Denier or The Complacent Staller?

This is a pivotal week in the clean energy debate. The Senate will vote on Murkowski’s short-sighted resolution to take away the EPA’s authority to regulate pollution.  As we head into this critical time, it’s not the Inhofe-cloned climate deniers who trouble me - it’s the knowing bystanders who are keeping me up at night. 

Before I start this rant, let me just state for the record that I still think deniers are about as accurate as my three year old is when she is trying to describe quantum physics at her make-believe tea parties (although they are wholly less adorable). The vast majority of these deniers resist climate legislation because they really don’t believe global warming is a problem – yes their heads are in the sand. But for the purposes of the Murkowski resolution, their vote is already lost. 

Lately I am even more frustrated with Senators who recognize that climate change is an urgent challenge, but who sit idly by on the sidelines doing nothing. For me, they raise the fundamental question – Who is worse - those that deny the existence of climate change or those that believe in the upcoming catastrophe and continue to lack focus or alarm? 

Take Senator Schumer for example. He has stated that he thinks the Senate should confront the impacts of climate change. Yet just this week, when leaders should be pushing hard for climate action, Schumer’s support has been tepid at best. On Morning Joe, he showered Senator Bingaman’s energy-only bill with praise, then said, “What do you do about climate change? Kerry has a proposal that has pretty broad support…He is going to get a chance to offer that opinion, and we will see if it has the votes.”  

We are looking for more from our Leaders than a passive wait and see attitude. Senator Schumer is the third ranking Democrat, and that means he needs to do more than wait around to cast a vote.  It’s time for real leadership, which means rolling up his sleeves and making sure a bill passes.  We need him in the trenches.  In fairness, the Senator walked himself back a bit after people threw a fit over his Morning Joe ambivalence.  He has pledged to meet with Senator Kerry on a path forward but until he demands action and puts him ample political muscle behind that call, I am skeptical. 

Exhibit #2 is Senator Rockefeller. As a Senator from West Virginia, he wants the federal government to do a better job of regulating mine safety, especially after the horrifying disaster at the Massey coalmine.  I applaud him for that stance, but here is where I get confused.  When it comes to global warming--something Rockefeller says, “America must address”--he suddenly gets allergic to federal regulation. He wants the Senate to block the EPA from reducing global warming pollution until Congress gets it’s act together. The federal government can and should be involved – today. Just as federal regulation needs to be strengthened to deal with mine safety, we need to let the regulators use the tools on the books begin addressing greenhouse gases.     

And finally, the fence sitters continue to be the best example of willful negligence.  The Senate is going to consider a resolution this week from Senator Murkowski to put the breaks on EPA’s efforts to address greenhouse gases.  There is a small group of Senators - like Collins, Snowe, Pryor, Webb, and Scott Brown - who say they want to reduce global warming pollution but may vote for Murkowski’s resolution to overturn the EPA’s authority to do so. If you think carbon emissions are dangerous, wouldn’t you want to use every weapon at your disposal to fight it? 

When I see Senators backpedalling, downplaying and side stepping climate action, I want to ask them: what are you waiting for? When is there going to be a better time to transition to clean energy? America is watching the cost of failed energy policies literally washing up on our shores. Our nation is desperately in need of the jobs and economic growth that a clean energy economy can provide. Congress has the most pro-clean energy members we are likely to get for several years.  

I think I just answered my own question – which is worse, a climate-denier or a knowledgeable staller…. I vote that someone who fails to act when they know the stakes is much worse.

 

 

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