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.

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This Week in Global Climate Change

Here's Peter Sinclair's Global Warming Crock of the Week:

In the video Peter goes over some of the fundamental discoveries, the basic facts that we know beyond a doubt, about global warming. Of course, many people will never believe science, because they believe that anything that challenges their world view is all part of a secret, vast global conspiracy.

Case in point is Senator James Inhofe, perhaps at once the most dangerous and the most clueless man on the planet, who gave an interview to Grist. Here's his hoax theory:

Q. You reasserted in today’s hearing your belief that global warming is a hoax. Can you clarify specifically who is perpetrating the hoax? Who are the dupers and who are the victims of the climate hoax?

A. Who are the victims? It would be the United States. It would be the economy, what would happen to this country according to MIT and others who have made analyses as to the economic destruction that would come with something like cap-and-trade or [regulating greenhouse-gas emissions] through the Clean Air Act.

Q. Who are the perpetrators of the hoax?

A. That’s the United Nations and the IPCC, clearly.

Q. Major energy companies have said they believe the scientific consensus on climate change. ExxonMobil said the appropriate debate isn’t on whether the climate is changing, but what we should do about it. NASA, NOAA, the Pentagon, the Pope, evangelical leaders, top executives in all industries, and governments all over the world including China and India—they’ve all acknowledged climate change. Do you believe that all of these entities have been scammed by the U.N. and a handful of scientists in the IPCC?

A. What you’ve just said is not true. There’s not unanimity at all even though you want to believe it.

NOAA and NASA and all these organizations, these people are all tied in to the IPCC. There are a lot of companies, oil companies and all that, who would like to have cap-and-trade. That’s where they can make money.

Q. What do you believe is the motive of the U.N.? What is the motive of the scientists who are perpetrating the hoax? How do you think they stand to benefit?

A. They stand to benefit [from] government grants and private sector grants [from places] like the Heinz Foundation.

We have scientists who are really sincere, and they’ve watched what’s going on and they have a hard time believing it. Those are the ones who started going to me probably seven or eight years ago, saying they’re cooking the science on this, someone’s got to say it, and I said it. And then more of them came. I listed them on my website. I’ve been very clear all along who the perpetrators were, what the motives were.

Q. So you believe that the U.N. and the scientists on the IPCC are perpetrating the hoax in order to get grant money?

A. No, no, no. We’ve already covered this, Amanda. You guys always ask the same question over and over again looking for a different answer. What is it you want that I didn’t already tell you?

Q. I’m trying to clarify the motivation behind the hoax. Why would these scientists want to deceive the global public?

A. It’s very clear that when you have the U.N. behind it, and you have all the Hollywood people moving in, you have the Heinz Foundation, that’s John Kerry’s wife—a lot of very wealthy people.

Many of [the scientists] know that if they were recipients of grants in the past, that could well be cut off. Or if they haven’t had them, they would want them. The complaints I had brought to me were from scientists who said that many scientists had been intimidated into saying things that weren’t true because of that leverage that has been used.

Q. So you believe the scientists and the U.N. are in it for the money?

A. Well, that enters into it, yes.

That's right the Senator from Oklahoma thinks that scientists and the UN are pushing global warming for the money. It's a vast conspiracy spanning decades and scientists from multiple disciplines across the globe. The lunacy of that proposition speaks for itself. It is evidently clear that basic science is beyond the Senator.

The other major development is a lengthy op-ed in the New York Times by former Vice President Al Gore responding to the skeptics and again issuing a call to action.

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Stormy Weather Ahead

Despite a Republican boycott of the proceedings, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer approved climate change legislation today. If you think the healthcare debate was contentious, you ain't seen nothing yet. This battle promises to be far uglier. Brace yourselves for stormy weather.

Eleven of the 12 Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted to approve the measure. Only Senator Max Baucus from coal-rich Montana voted against the bill. None of the seven Republicans who sit on the committee were present for the vote because of an effort to derail the legislation tactically. The legislation had been tied up in the committee by the Republicans, led by Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who said the bill’s impact on the economy hadn’t been adequately studied. They boycotted most of the panel’s meetings this week to try to prevent a vote until the Environmental Protection Agency reviews the bill further. Such stalling tactics speak to the character of the GOP. As Senator Boxer noted, "The Senate can’t be paralyzed."

From Politico:

With Republican boycotting the proceedings, Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) relied on a little used interpretation of committee rules to move the legislation. Traditionally, two minority members are required to conduct committee business.

Boxer said that she passed the bill "in full accordance with long-standing committee and Senate rules."

"This is not a procedure we wanted; it's a procedure that's available to us," said Boxer. "The majority has to be able to do its work...otherwise the whole Senate could come to a screeching halt."

Republicans called Boxer's move the "nuclear option," warning that it violated decades of committee precedent.

"I am here to appeal to you and the members of the committee," Sen. Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the committee, said in a brief statement. "In the history of this committee, we have not been able to find a time when the bill has been marked up without minority."

A Republican committee member visited the committee daily this week to deliver a short statement laying out GOP objections to the process.

Top Republican committee leaders and several moderate members -- including climate bill leader South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham -- have sent letters this week in support of the boycott.

Eleven Democrats voted for the bill, enough to give the legislation a majority of the 19 members on the committee.

Montana Sen. Max Baucus was the only Democratic to vote against the bill, citing concerns about the agriculture provisions included in the legislation.

But Baucus vowed to use his post as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee to pass a climate bill.

The boycotting of proceedings in order to bring the Senate and the business of the people "to a screeching halt" is the last option available to the GOP. They will destroy the country if need be in order to get their way which is to do nothing at all. The only thing James Inhofe cares about is the energy industry's profits. This is a man who believes that global climate change is "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." The GOP will stop at nothing to derail any climate legislation going forward and we should be prepared for such.

The problem we face is that given Senate rules, a few Republican votes will be required to pass climate legislation because at least a few Democrats have reservations. Both Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota have said they are opposed to cap-and-trade. And both Senator Max Baucus and Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia are concerned that cap-and-trade legislation will hurt their coal-dependent states and won’t support the measure in its current form.

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