Pelosi and energy: ethanol and select committee woes

I've looked before at the politics of Pelosi's proposal to set up a select committee on global warming (EIGW); the Postthis morning fills in some details (and on A1, too!):

The House Democrats had not quite finished their "100 hours" agenda when they met in the Capitol basement Thursday morning, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) was already looking ahead...For her next act, she planned to take on global warming.

Democrats, she explained, had to show a sense of urgency about the carbon emissions that threaten the planet, and so she was creating a select committee on energy independence and climate change to communicate that urgency. The new committee, she said, would help the caucus speak with one voice -- even if it trampled the turf of existing committees.

Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), a close Pelosi ally, raised his gavel and asked whether anyone had anything else to say, in the same pro forma way that question is posed at weddings. "One, do I hear anything?" he asked. "Two do I hear, 2 1/2 do I hear, three." Emanuel's gavel came down. "The caucus meeting is over."

If that's really how it went down - a fait accompli - no wonder Dingell was spitting feathers.

But - here's a little that new - apparently, pro-conservation lobbyists are also jittery:

Even if Pelosi manages to finagle a bill through the House, there is the problem of the Senate, where global-warming skeptic James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) has lost his chairmanship to climate-conscious Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) but has threatened a filibuster. And President Bush seems unlikely to sign anything too far-reaching.

That is why some environmentalists want Pelosi to delay until she can send a bill to a more sympathetic president in 2009, and why some Democrats want her to delay so they can use the issue against Republicans in 2008.

"It's a briar patch," said one industry lobbyist. "I can understand why Pelosi wants to hold hearings to show the Democrats care, but I can't believe she really wants to try to legislate."

Who this lobbyist is and what his agenda might be, we don't know.

But, it seems, he's not a lone voice:

"If we can get some real facts into the public domain, keep educating the American people, lay down some principles about what kind of bill is acceptable and help get the next Congress ready to act, that would be a success," said Ana Unruh Cohen, a global-warming expert at the liberal Center for American Progress. "You know, Bush is still the president."

So - if the enviros (that's the word, according to the Post) are relaxed, why is Pelosi so all-fire keen on going at the issue like a bull at a gate?

The implication: global warming is a pretext for setting up EIGW; her motive is poke Dingell in the eye to show him, and the other Old Bulls, that to adapt Ed Flynn, She's The Boss.

Meanwhile - the Times has a long piece on the ethanol issue.

In one of life's little ironies, ethanol, a thoroughly porktastic  commodity (Harkin is quoted as a key proponent; used to be Daschle, of course), is increasingly having a deleterious effect on - the pork industry.

Current, most US ethanol is made from corn, which is mostly used as hog feed. Because you need such an awful lot of corn to make a gallon of ethanol - it's pretty inefficient - feed prices, and thence hog prices, head northwards. Demand chokes, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Non-food plants (like switchgrass) can be used instead - but they're twice as inefficient as corn!

How the ethanol issue plays out in the 110th will be fascinating - even more so now we have the EIGW in prospect. (Pelosi still has to get that majority on the House floor, of course.)

It's going to be messier than her 100 Hours energy bill, no doubt about it!

Tags: EIGW, Energy Select Committee, Ethanol, Global Warming Bill, Pelosi, rahm emanuel (all tags)


1 Comment

Re: Pelosi and energy: ethanol and select committe

[blockquote]Non-food plants (like switchgrass) can be used instead - but they're twice as inefficient as corn![/blockquote]

I believe it's just the opposite. There are crops (of which switchgrass is Dubya's famous example) that give a lot more ethanol per acre planted than corn does. I could certainly be wrong about switchgrass, but I'm fairly certain about there being alternative crops that are more than marginally better than corn for ethanol.

As for Pelosi's desire to push forward with alt energy legislation, I see nothing but goodness for all efforts that may result. If it's just high-profile hearings, investigation, reports, testimony; that's OK. If she gets a bill over to the Senate, OK. If a bill gets to the WH where it's vetoed, OK. And if, mirabile dictu, it gets signed, that's fine, too.

But any of those achievements will have benefit to the Dem's. Every (R) who votes against, filibusters, or won't override, provides a nice bit of campaign fodder for 2008. By bringing things up she wins.

The only scenario that sucks for (D)'s is if a vote comes to the House floor without enough votes to pass. And I am comfortable that the nose-counters in the caucus will be on top of things.

All in all, there are a lot of plusses in the new committee's existence, with very few minuses.

by KB 2007-01-24 09:17AM | 0 recs


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