Energy vultures are circling the Capitol

Congressional lobbyists feed off the insecurity, desperation, timeservingness and greed of MCs.

And it looks as if the 110th will be no less sumptuous a buffet than previous Congresses.

There's the ethanolicious farm bill, of course, that's being concocted by Peterson's House Ag; and (I'm tipped by a Stoller piece) then there's S 1321 (the puckishly named Energy Savings Act - guess who'll be making the savings?) reported out by Bingaman's Senate Energy.

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Lobbyist Gephardt

Adam Terando noticed something about the last post on global warming and Barack Obama.  Dick Gephardt is lobbying for Peabody Energy, the world's largest private coal company.  That's rather surprising, but also illuminating.  It's pretty disgusting what Big Coal wants.

But coal executives anticipate potentially huge profits. Gregory H. Boyce, chief executive of Peabody Energy, based in St. Louis, which has $5.3 billion in sales, told an industry conference nearly two years ago that the value of Peabody's coal reserves would skyrocket almost tenfold, to $3.6 trillion, if it sold all its coal in the form of liquid fuels.

Coal industry lobbying has reached a fever pitch. The industry spent $6 million on federal lobbying in 2005 and 2006, three times what it spent each year from 2000 through 2004, according to calculations by Politicalmoneyline.com.

Peabody, which has quadrupled its annual lobbying budget to about $2 million since 2004, recently hired Richard A. Gephardt, the Missouri Democrat who was House majority leader from 1989 to 1995 and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and 2004, to help make its case in Congress.

One of the most vociferous champions of coal-to-liquid fuels is the Southern States Energy Board, a group organized by governors from 16 states. Last year, the group published a study, which cost $500,000, that concluded that coal-to-liquid fuel could and should replace almost one-third of imported oil by 2030.

As it happens, the coal industry supplied much of the financing for the study and subsequent marketing. Peabody Energy contributed about $150,000 and the National Mining Association added $50,000, officials at the Southern States Energy Board said.

The inducements under discussion would not only subsidize up to 10 coal-to-liquid plants, but also guarantee a minimum market through long-term contracts with the Air Force and minimum prices for at least some producers.

"There is financial uncertainty, which is inhibiting the flow of private capital into the construction of coal-to-liquid facilities," said Mr. Boucher, who supports most of the proposals and is drafting portions of the energy bill.

In addition to construction loan guarantees, Mr. Boucher would protect the first six liquid plants from drops in energy prices. If oil prices fell below about $40 a barrel, the government would automatically grant loans to the first six plants that make coal-based fuels. If oil prices climbed to $80 a barrel, companies would have to pay a surcharge to the government.

Peabody is one of the most aggressive union-busting outfits out there.  Over the last fifteen years, the company systematically shut down union mines and replaced production with non-union mines.  Right now, there's a Justice at Peabody campaign aimed at mines in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Gephardt made much of his political career based on standing up for labor, and in particular his 1988 campaign and his top showing in Iowa.  But there was another side to Gephardt, which showed in his opposition to the minimum wage, his anti-choice stances, his support of Reagan's tax cuts in 1981, and his backing of fast track in 1991, which led to NAFTA.  Gephardt was and is, like most Democrats of that era, weak, untrustworthy, and disloyal.  It's important to note that people like Gephardt are deeply corrupted because they still have a lot of influence within the party.

Gephardt should not be respected.  He's a nice man, a genial person, and very experienced.  But he has no moral compass whatsoever.  When you work for a carbon spewing union-busting corporation just to make a few extra dollars in a high priced lobbying outfit, well, that's DC for you.  But when you do it after a long career pretending to being the true voice of labor, that's the 1980s and 1990s Coelho-ified Democratic Party.

And for 50 bonus points, guess which Presidential campaign Gephardt is advising on policy issues.

Update [2007-5-29 13:59:54 by Matt Stoller]: And here's the answer.

Sperling, who was top White House official, and former Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman are playing leading roles in the Clinton campaign, organizing meetings for the candidate on a wide range of topics. Former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt is also actively engaged with the campaign.

It's interesting how the consensus in the comments was that Gephardt would be advising the Obama campaign. Perhaps this should be a sign that Obama isn't differentiating himself particularly well.

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