For once the adminstration and House Dem leadership went all out for their position. Result: passage of a "climate" bill that's pretty crappy
“This energy bill’s fine print betrays its laudable purpose. The real 'cap' is on the public interest and the 'trade' is the billions from the public to polluters. . . . This bill is 85% different from what President Obama proposed months ago. No wonder his Budget Director called this type of bill ‘the largest corporate welfare program in history of the United States.’ Until greatly improved, until families share in the billions this bill grants powerful lobbies, I cannot support it.”
-- Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), yesterday on the House floor
(and yet he wound up voting for the bill -- see below)
(and yet he wound up voting for the bill -- see below)
I've been focusing in recent days on my dread about the alarmingly evolving health care reform situation, and so haven't had a chance to express my parallel dread about the even more dreadful Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) bill that squeaked through the House last night, with a bunch of unsurprising Democratic defections and, finally, some pleasantly surprising Republican ones.
Howie wrote last night about the politics of it. I'm afraid, though, that I don't derive much satisfaction from this "victory."
As best I can tell -- and here naturally I have to depend on the people I trust most when it comes to energy and environmental issues, since I don't begin to understand the intricacies of them -- the bill is on balance crap. For all that its proponents keep insisting that, despite the president's lofty approval ratings and the overwhelming Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, this is "the best bill we can get now," and that somehow it's going to be magically "improved" before final passage, or maybe after passage, this strikes me as delusion, perhaps induced by an excess of hope and a shortage of real-world facts to pin that hope on. Now that the polluters have gotten more than they could have hoped for from an energy bill, why on earth would they give up what they've won?
The only question, really, is whether the bill is so bad that we would be better off, from an environmental standpoint, with no bill at all. At this point, I encourage you to click through to a Get Energy Smart Now blogpost yesterday by my go-to guy on these issues, A Siegel, in which he recorded the announced opposition on the House floor of two stalwartly pro-environmental congressmen, Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX).
To be sure, Siegel notes: "This was, it is quite likely, a difficult call as there are quite strong (and even compelling) arguments to vote for the bill despite its flaws. Honestly, in their shoes, I don’t know what statement I would have made today."
In fact, in a Thursday post Siegel expressed his admiration for the president's eloquent speech on behalf of ACESl:
In his comments, the President emphasized that this is a “jobs bill”, tying this quite directly to prospects to dig ourselves not just out of the climate hole, but our unemployment hole. The President’s statement is a strong one, a powerful discussion of the value of meaningful, strong climate legislation. And, it will (should) be hard for any Democratic member of the House to ignore his call for a yes vote.
But that doesn't mean that the ACES bill lives up to the president's rhetoric. Let's go to what Congressman Doggett had to say yesterday. Here's a full transcript of the above clip:
This energy bill’s fine print betrays its laudable purpose. The real "cap" is on the public interest and the "trade" is the billions from the public to polluters. It is too weak to greatly spur new technologies and green jobs.
An Administration analysis shows that doing nothing actually results in more new renewable electricity generation capacity than approving this bill. Vital authority for the EPA is stripped, but 2 billion additional tons of pollution are authorized every year, forever. Residential consumer protection incredibly is entrusted to the mercy of utility companies. Exempting a hundred new coal plants and paying billions to Old King Coal leaves him, indeed, a very merry old soul.
This bill is 85% different from what President Obama proposed months ago. No wonder his Budget Director called this type of bill "the largest corporate welfare program in history of the United States." Until greatly improved, until families share in the billions this bill grants powerful lobbies, I cannot support it.
I know there's a lot to take in here, but this whole business is so complicated, and so far beyond the realm of most of our experience, and the stakes are so high, that I really urge you to read the congressman's remarks carefully. There is, at the very least, a strong case to be made that the net effect of the bill is to codify present pollution levels and reward polluters for continuing to pollute.
As a matter of fact, though, Congressman Doggett, under heavy pressure from the House Dem leadership, wound up voting for the bill, as Siegel noted in an update. Here's Mike Willis's Washington Independent report late yesterday afternoon:
Earlier this afternoon, Friends of the Earth, an environmental group that opposes the Democrats’ soon-to-be-voted-on climate change bill, shot out an email commending Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) for his shared opposition.
They’ll want to take that back. Doggett just took to the House floor to announce that he’s now supporting the bill. The reason? He was tired, he said, of listening to the members of “the flat earth society” across the aisle making “inane” arguments.
So there we are, caught between a rock and a hard place. Don't be fooled by the predictable all-obstructionist all-the-time right-wing opposition. This bill is so bad that the polluters must have been popping the champagne last night. The "Just Say No" Republicans said no mostly because that's all they do. As we know by now, they don't even listen to anything the president says. They know it's all vetted by their cadres of oppo researchers to develop tomorrow's "Just Say No" talking points.
Maybe the only thing to do is close our eyes and make believe, as a number of environmental groups appear to have done. As A Siegel pointed out in his post yesterday, in announcing their opposition to ACES, Congressmen DeFazio and Doggett were writing off future support from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), which on Tuesday -- describing ACES as "the most important piece of environmental legislation to ever come before the House of Representatives," with "the potential to transform America by creating clean energy jobs, improving our national security, and protecting our planet from global warming pollution" -- announced "the unprecedented decision that the organization will not endorse any member of the House of Representatives in the 2010 election cycle who votes against final passage of this bill."
(Side note on typical Inside the Beltway weasel-wording: Note that the language specifices voting "against final passage of this bill." In other words, in typical congressional fashion, members are apparently free to oppose the bill all they like without incurring the wrath of the LCV, as long as they vote for "final passage.")
To end on the most optimistic note possible, let's give the last word to LCV president Gene Karpinski, who wrote in his Tuesday letter to all House members, “The stakes could not be higher; a safer, healthier planet and a new energy economy hang in the balance, and it’s imperative that members of Congress be on the right side of history.”
If that's not enough, I expect it's just a matter of time before we hear that Santa Claus and the tooth fairy are endorsing ACES.