“Party of No” finally says yes – to more greenhouse gases

  • Published on February 4th, 2011

coal power plantThey said they were gonna do it, and they did it. The GOP has introduced what they are creatively calling the “Energy Tax Prevention Act.” What it actually does is block the EPA from enforcing the clean air act- as recognized by the Supreme Court – and increasing US output of greenhouse gases.

“We firmly believe federal bureaucrats should not be unilaterally setting national climate change policy,” the GOP statement said. “Federal bureaucrats”? “Unilaterally”? Perhaps they’re forgetting the dozens of states and the majority of the Supreme Court who all agreed that regulating greenhouse gases was necessary and appropriate under the clean air act. That fight culminated in a Supreme Court ruling that ordered the EPA to act to enforce the law. (For more background, see: “Climate Change: GOP Goes After EPA“)

The GOP also said the regulations hurt our ability to compete against countries that have lower standards. What’s next, an end to the 8 hour day and a return to child labor?

Everything is too costly… except subsidies for big oil and big agriculture. Those are necessary because they create jobs. (For the real story on competitiveness, see “Chinese are Eating our Lunch on Clean Energy and Climate Change” and “Yep, Chinese are Seriously Eating our Lunch“)

“The Republicans have a lot of power, but they can’t amend the laws of nature,” Rep Henry Waxman (D-CA) said. “Gutting the Clean Air Act is only going to make our problems worse. This proposal threatens public health and energy security, and it undermines our economic recovery by creating regulatory uncertainty.”

Democrats join the bandwagon

It’s not just Republicans, either.

Apparently totally missing the message of the 2010 electoral bloodbath (“When Democratic politicians act like Republicans, Democratic voters don’t bother to vote for them”), six Democrats in the Senate have signed on to Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s (D-WV) “compromise” bill that doesn’t strip the EPA of greenhouse gas regulation permanently – it just shuts it down for two years.

Joining Rockeffeler are Sens. Jim Webb (D-VA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Joe Manchin III (D-WV), Ben Nelson (D-NB) and Kent Conrad (D-ND). Of those, Webb, McCaskill, Manchin and Nelson face tough re-election bids next year, and appear to think that kicking the can down the road on climate change will somehow win over conservative voters without alienating their base.

“We must give Congress enough time to consider a comprehensive energy bill to develop the clean coal technologies we need and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, protect West Virginia and improve our environment,” said Rockefeller in a statement. Missing was any sense of the reality: that Congress has been gridlocked on the issue for years and is currently further than ever from acting.

A similar bill failed in the Senate last year despite support from a similar group of renegade Democrats.

“The regulatory approach is the wrong way to promote renewable energy and clean energy jobs in Arkansas and the rest of the country,” said Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) as part of her desperate attempt to pander to the middle by opposing Democratic initiatives on everything from climate to healthcare, only to lose her re-election bid in an embarrassing blow-out. You’d think that might have sent a message to Webb, McCaskill, Manchin and Nelson… but apparently not.

(Conrad is retiring, in all likelihood throwing his North Dakota seat to the GOP, so his opposition may be on principal).

Probably doesn’t matter, though

The Republicans have the votes to push their version of the bill through in the house, but with competing measures up for votes in the Senate it’s not clear that any one of them has the votes to pass outright, never mind get by the 60-votes to push past a filibuster. Even if it did, President Obama has vowed a veto.

So this is just more jockeying for positing and bragging rights to the party base, like the health care “Repeal” that accomplished nothing but sound and fury.

The actual battles will be fought in the coming weeks over budget bills. Watch for Republicans to attempt to kill things like greenhouse gas enforcement by stripping out funding; watch for Democrats to horse-trade them back in, perhaps in exchange for tax breaks for big oil, which President Obama threatened to slash earlier this week.

It’s going to be a long two years…

More on Climate Change and Global Warming from Red Green and Blue:

(Coal power plant photo AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by DerGuy82)

About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.