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Bill Scher

Bill Scher

Posted: July 1, 2009 12:31 PM

The New Senate Global Warming Deniers


If you wanted to get progressives more excited about the clean energy and climate protection bill that passed the House last week, you might be inclined to point to Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins HuffPost piece on the $1 billion in green jobs funding that was added at the last minute, including "[l]ocal access to quality jobs, through the creation of a green-construction, careers-demonstration program." Or the Environmental Capital post about the new green building codes: "The bill mandates that upon passage, all states move to adopt standards for residential and commercial structures that are at least 30 percent better than two widely accepted energy codes. The requirements get more strict over time, and states would get lots of money from the federal government to enforce them."

But I am happiest today with the NY Times report reviewing all the unpleasant sausage-making that went into crafting a compromise between green Dems and carbon-friendly Dems.

Why? Because in the aftermath of the House vote, right-leaning Senate Dems and right-wing Republicans acted as if Reps. Henry Waxman and Ed Markey hadn't spent the last three months painstakingly piecing a compromise with Dems sympathetic to coal companies, power companies and agribusiness.

These senators are the new global warming deniers. Not denying the climate crisis is happening, but denying the climate bill compromises that just happened.

Sen. Claire McCaskil complained on Twitter, "I hope we can fix cap and trade so it doesn't unfairly punish businesses and families in coal dependent states like Missouri." Sen. Robert Byrd released a critical statement, "I cannot support the House bill in its present form. I continue to believe that clean coal can be a 'green' energy,"

Sen. Lindsey Graham contradicted himself on Meet The Press as he complained both that 44 Democrats voted against the bill, and the bill was not a bipartisan compromise -- when in fact Republican votes were needed to pass the bill because so many Democrats defected. Graham also made the odd comment that we need to "join forces with energy independence groups and climate change groups to get a bipartisan bill." Of course, that's exactly what did happen. The biggest outside influence behind the bill was the business-enviro coalition US Climate Action Partnership. But Graham knows that the traditional media generally hasn't bothered to explain what happened to get the bill passed, allowing him to distort reality unfettered.

The West Virginia blog Coal Tattoo sought to remind Sen. Byrd that the United Mine Workers concluded "the amount of money dedicated to coal in this bill is remarkable, and the future of coal will be intact." I sought to the use the power of Twitter to let Sen. McCaskill know about the coal compromises after she told her followers she plans to do her "homework" on energy. No new responses from either yet.

If the perception is created that the House bill is not a compromise bill, all the political pressure will be on weakening the bill further, which would risk shattering the tenuous coalition that got the bill passed in the first place.

If we want to have any hope of holding the line, let alone trying to strengthen the bill, in the Senate, it must be known far and wide that House leaders have done the hard work. They have taken the risks and cut the deals.

If fossil fuel-friendly Senators want to criticize the substance of those deals, fine. Do so and have a public debate about it. Certainly environmental groups want to.

But to pretend those deals don't exist is flat dishonesty. And if we let it stand, the Senate process will be even uglier than the House.

Originally posted at OurFuture.org

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