St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Special interests wreck 'cap and trade' bill

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed the so-called American Clean Energy and Security Act (commonly referred to as “cap and trade”), but what it passed was a severely watered-down version that takes only the smallest steps toward reducing greenhouse gases. While it may be marginally better than no act at all, it fails the people in these ways:

  • The bill’s targets are far less ambitious than what is achievable with already existing technology, far weaker than science says is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.
  • The bill’s targets are undermined by massive loopholes that could allow the most polluting industries to avoid real emission reductions until 2027.
  • Rather than provide relief and support to consumers, the bill showers polluting industries with hundreds of billions of dollars in free allowances and direct subsidies that will slow renewable energy development and lock in a new generation of dirty coal-fired power plants.
  • The bill removes the President’s authority to address global warming pollution using laws already on the books.
The final bill contained those flaws because the decision-making process was co-opted by oil and coal lobbyists determined to sustain our addiction to dirty fossil fuels. This occurred with the Democratic Party in total control over that process.

For these reasons, the Waxman-Markey bill was actively opposed by a broad coalition of environmental protection activist organizations, including Greenpeace USA, Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth, Citizen Power, Center for Biological Diversity, The Utility Reform Network (TURN), the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, Coal Moratorium Now!, the Rainforest Action Network, International Rivers, and the Energy Justice Network. A joint public statement by these and various local groups observed that the bill “failed to adequately strengthen protections for consumers, communities, and the climate” and “it erased all doubt of who will benefit most from it: Big Business. The resulting bill reflects the triumph of politics over science, and the triumph of industry influence over the public interest.”

While the bill was opposed by Republican congressmen (all but 8) plus an assortment of "blue dog" energy producing and farm state Democrats, it also drew the active opposition of Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), perhaps the most progressive member of Congress. "It won’t address the problem," he said. "In fact, it might make the problem worse. It sets targets that are too weak, especially in the short term, and sets about meeting those targets through Enron-style accounting methods." He outdid the environmental organizations by listing 13 detailed reasons why the bill that passed the House is bad for the country.

The biggest problem is the bill's subsidies to the coal industry, which Kucinich described as "one of the primary sources of the problem that should be on its way out." Kucinich criticized these "massive corporate giveaways at taxpayer expense," pointing out, "There is $60 billion for a single technology which may or may not work, but which enables coal power plants to keep warming the planet at least another 20 years."

Kucinich offered or co-sponsored 10 separate amendments that collectively would have turned the bill into an acceptable starting point, but the Democratic House leadership refused to allow any of them to be offered to the full House.

Apparently the Democrats’ seizing control of Congress from corporate-owned Republicans in 2006 meant nothing. Now we get bad legislation from corporate-owned Democrats instead.


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