A Dirty Pledge

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

On Thursday, House Republicans issued their roadmap for the midterm elections and the next legislative session. It's called the "Pledge to America," but on energy issues, it sounds more like a pledge that makes powerful promises to the oil and gas industry.

The document says, "We will fight to increase access to domestic energy sources and oppose attempts to impose a national 'cap and trade' energy tax."

That's it. That's all the platform says about America's failed energy policy and the crisis of global warming.

I could understand if the GOP was pushing for a different energy and climate policy than this administration. I could understand if they wanted to try a new mechanism for reducing carbon emissions -- despite the fact that cap and trade is a market-based model first signed into law by a Republican president and GOP majority vote. I could understand if they wanted to try other ways to reduce our dependence on oil or to make the U.S. more energy efficient.

But I cannot understand the complete failure to address one of the biggest environmental, public health and national security risks of our time. I know some Tea Party and GOP candidates deny the existence of climate change, but that doesn't make the problem go away. We should have learned that from previous generations of deniers who wanted us to do nothing about leaded gasoline, or about smog or about acid rain. We didn't make progress until we ignored the deniers and got to work.

How is burying your head in the sand a visionary pledge to Americans?

I shouldn't be surprised by this failure of leadership. After all, this party platform was literally written by a former lobbyist for the oil and gas industry. Author Brain Wild was a Hill staffer and assistant legislative director for Vice President Cheney. Then, he went to work for a lobby shop that had a $1.3 million contract with Exxon Mobil, $800,000 from Anadarko Petroleum, $740,000 from AIG and $625,000 from Pfizer.

As Sam Stein reports, those associations may win favor in GOP circles, but you can't escape the conflicts of interest they raise.

We've tried this before. We spent the past decade letting the polluters call the shots, and it didn't end up too well: the BP oil spill.

If someone drives a car off the road, you don't give them the keys again.

Still, there is something a little desperate about the way GOP leaders are trumpeting their supposed agenda. These people are likely to be replaced by more extreme Tea Party favorites and so they're trying to echo the Tea Party agenda to stave off their own demise.

Come November, my guess is that Representative Boehner and his colleagues will be so tied up with the civil war within the Republican Party; they won't have much time for doling out giveaways to the fossil fuel industry.



Why didn't anyone tell me that Sen. Murkowski was a climate champion?

Tuesday's Republican primary in Alaska may still be undecided, (currently incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski trails her tea-party challenger Joe Miller by approximately 2,000 votes) but that hasn't stopped anti-environment pundits from speculating that if Murkowski loses, it will be because of her support for climate legislation. Now I follow the climate debate pretty closely, (even if it wasn't my job, as a political junkie I'd follow it nonetheless) and I just don't remember Murkowski being a climate champion. That isn't to say she's another James Inhofe in the Senate, but being open to negotiations on climate legislation does not make her the zealous supporter her opponent portrays her to be.

Fact is that Lisa Murkowski is far from an environmental champ. The League of Conservative Voters (LCV) gives her an 18% career rating, meaning that she votes the right way on less than one out of five environmental issues. And, more recently, she gave us environmentalists heartburn by leading an assault on the Clean Air Act - only one of the most successful environmental laws of all time.

Murkowski's effort to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency's scientific finding that global warming threatens our health and welfare was bad, but at least she was polite enough to claim her attack "has nothing to do with the science of global warming." That's a far cry from her opponent, Joe Miller, whose campaign website says that "The science supporting manmade climate change is inconclusive." The last thing that Alaska needs is a climate denier representing it in the Senate. Even the late Ted Stevens, never an environmental champ himself, recognized that "Alaska is harder hit by global climate change than any place in the world."

To say this primary suggests that climate change is a political non-starter in Alaska shows a selective memory. Just two short years ago, Alaska elected a real climate champ, Mark Begich, to the Senate. Climate change was a top issue during Begich's campaign, when he called for an 80% reduction in carbon pollution by 2050 and adaption strategies to help Alaska deal with the effect of climate change. Since coming to the Senate, he has continued to work to advance clean energy and climate solutions, earning an 82% rating from LCV in his first year. Last August, he introduced a package of seven bills aimed to help Alaska prepare for the changes and challenges created by a warming planet. And, in June, he voted against Murkowski's Clean Air Act attack.

This is just another case of anti-environment pundits not letting the facts get in the way of propagating their backward agenda. I'm interested to see how they'll change their tune if the absentee ballots put Murkowski in the lead. If she wins in the end, I wonder if they'll claim her victory was due to her steadfast support for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? Or maybe it'll be her support for offshore drilling?

The only thing I know is if she wins, they won't be crediting her position on climate.

We failed the people who cleaned up 9/11. Will we fail the people cleaning up the Gulf?

Time-stamp updated and bumped from the diaries. -Nathan

In the aftermath of 9/11, we saw thousands of workers develop devastating respiratory conditions and other illnesses as a result of exposure to toxic dust that filled the air in the days and weeks after the twin towers fell. To this day, these peoples' plight continues to add misery to the ongoing tragedy of 9/11. What makes it even worse is that these people were assured the air was safe.   As we all know now, it wasn't.

Today, sadly, history may be repeating itself in the Gulf of Mexico.

(Thank you to Ligia Ercius-Dipaola, who posted this video on the NRDC Action Fund Facebook Page)

Amazingly, despite reports like this one, BP "continues to pretend that - just like an oil spill of this magnitude could never happen - there also could not possibly be a worker health concern."  While the potential health hazards posed by chemical dispersants and oil itself are debatable, it is clear that significant risks existed.

More text and video below the jump. It's well worth your time. -Nathan

There's more...

Our Senators, the Climate Bill, and Tying Your Shoes with One Hand

Last Thursday, the Senate voted 53 to 47 to defeat the Murkowski resolution that would have undermined the EPA's ability to reduce global warming pollution. The vote provides a useful guide to how senators might act on a climate vote.

Of course, it is not a clear-cut comparison because some people voted against the flawed resolution to make a point about process or simply to support the science. It is significant to note that we have 10 more votes in favor of reducing carbon emissions than we did the last time climate change was discussed on the Senate floor two years ago.

But here is what I find most interesting about last week's vote: the number of Senators who have all publicly exclaimed that global warming is a pressing problem but who voted to block the EPA from dealing with it. Are they sitting on an "election year fence" or are the deep pockets of Big Oil & Coal companies propping up their campaign contribution fences? The question must be asked - Why do these senators benefit from burning caveman fuels?

Senator Rockefeller, for instance, said: "I am not here to deny or bicker fruitlessly about the science... In fact, I would suggest that I think the science is correct. Greenhouse gas emissions are not healthy for the Earth or her people, and we must take significant action to reduce them. We must develop and deploy clean energy, period."

And yet the man voted to hamstring the EPA. Indeed, Senator Rockefeller intends to push his own bill that would put the EPA's effort to confront global warming on hold--giving West Virginia's coal industry a free pass for two more years.

Senator Chambliss from Georgia, meanwhile, said, "I know the climate is changing." And Senator Hutchison from Texas declared: "As a solution to climate change, we need to work together to promote the use of clean and renewable sources of energy....It is important that we work together. We are the elected representatives of the people."

And yet both of them voted against one of our main tools for combating global warming pollution: the EPA.

I'm sorry, but if you really believe this is a crisis, why wouldn't you want to fight it with every weapon available? Why wouldn't you deploy the muscle of both Congress AND the federal government?

While I was listening to last week's debate, I couldn't help but be reminded of teaching my three-year-old how to tie her shoes. I showed her how to do it with two hands, of course. Why on earth would I suggest she do it with one?

Yet that is what these Senators seem to be proposing. Senator Collins from Maine said:
"I believe global climate change and the development of alternatives to fossil fuels are significant and urgent priorities for our country."

Why would she want us to fight global warming with one hand tied behind our back?

On the one hand, these statements are good news - despite the yelping of Inhofe and Hatch, the Senate is not a bastion of climate deniers. There's even a consensus that something must be done. The bad news is they're still not doing it. What is it that these Senators actually would support that isn't just some vague theory?



Collective Failure. Singular Opportunity.

Last Thursday was the one-month anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster and every day, we see more and more evidence that collectively we have failed to not only act, but also we have failed to organize and express our anger about the disaster, and its truly shocking long-term consequences.

My friend Peter Daou wrote a remarkable post, The Great Shame: America's Pathetic Response To The Gulf Catastrophe earlier this week -- a very popular one I might add judging by the over 1,200 comments.

One thing that struck me is this passage:

This isn't Katrina II, it's worse. As the oil keeps gushing and the damage keeps growing, we are squandering a rare chance to turn the tide against those whose laziness and greed and ignorance is imperiling every living thing on our wonderful and beautiful -- and wounded --- planet.

Words are a necessary precursor to deeds, anger is an essential ingredient for social change. Speaking up and speaking out is the difference between apathy and action.

We all do need to speak up, we all do need to speak out and we all need to make our voices heard. Every single day, the catastrophe is getting worse.

Today, as I debate why America is so apathetic towards the spill, I am in Los Angeles. As you travel the country, it's not top of the news anywhere anymore. It's fading away, but as the oil floods the Gulf, I was sent another great post by Pete Altman at NRDC, check out these shocking numbers about what one day of inaction looks like.

Because every day we delay,

The United States imports 11.7 million barrels of oil. According to the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. imported an average of 11.7 million barrels per day of crude and other oil products in 2009.

Iran earns $173 million in oil revenues. The Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts that Iran will generate oil export revenue at $63.4 billion this year from output of 3.82 million barrels per day (bpd). $63.4 billion divided by 365 days is $173.7 million.

Up to 4 million gallons of oil surges into the Gulf
. The official estimate is that about 5,000 barrels of oil are spilling per day, but independent experts contend that the actual amount is far higher -- as much as 95,000 barrels per day. A barrel holds 42 gallons.

China invests $95 million in clean energy -- nearly double the United States investment ($51 million.) In 2009, China invested $34.6 billion in clean energy compared to $18.6 billion in the U.S. ($34.6 billion/365 = $95 million a day, $18.6 billion/365 = $51 million a day.)

100,000 solar panels roll off Chinese production lines. Solar module production in China and Taiwan will increase 48 percent to 5,515 megawatts in 2010, according to a February, 2010 report by Yuanta. One megawatt requires about 5,000 panels. Assuming 250 production days per year, this translates to 110,300 panels per day.

The United States generates 19 million tons (metric) of greenhouse gas emissions per year. EPA's most recent greenhouse gas inventory reports that the U.S. produced 6,956.8 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 equivalent basis) in 2008. That's 19,059,726 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each day.

Clearly we need to move from apathy to action. Because as every day passes, as the evidence of our collective failure washes up on the beaches of the Gulf and deeper and deeper into the marshes of Louisiana, what's Washington's reaction?

"Pathetic" would be kind.

There will evidently be a commission to study this disaster, but as we saw with the 9/11 commission, even solid recommendations are usually ignored by one or both parties with little hope of action.

And Lindsey Graham, who has usually been the top Republican on the issue, thinks that the disaster in the Gulf is a cry for a "smaller" clean energy and climate change bill?

Smaller? This is what is so disgustingly wrong with Washington, and it's up to us to send a message.

Smaller? No way. This is a rallying cry to long-needed action.

Start by watching this:

And then go here and sign a letter to President Obama.

There's more we can all do and more we all must do but for today, it's a start.




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