Greenwashing reckless legislation — unintentionally or otherwise

Barbara Boxer has been a real leader on Global Warming issues in the US Senate. A leader who suffered for far too long under the ‘tutelage’ of Senator James Inhofe (R-Exxon).  Sadly, for whichever set of reasons, Senator Boxer has being working hard to corral votesin support of the fatally flawed Lieberman-Warner Coal Subsidy Act and reacting strongly against those who have the audacity to question the bill and her approach to it.   The bill, however, is getting growing notice and the questioning of Senator Boxer’s approach to it is spreading.  

In the face of such criticism, Barbara Boxer held a press conference today  with a range of environmental organizations to support action on Global Warming.

This press conference, Boxer and Environmental Leaders United on Urgent Need to Address Global Warming, was to show a “unifed front” as to the need for serious action in the US Congress and by the United States to deal with Global Warming.   This comes, of course, in the looming shadow of the Lieberman-Warner Coal Subsidy Act which fails fundamentally, across the board on basic principles for policy action on global warming:

  • Lieberman-Warner fails to meet scientific requirements to avert catastrophic climate change.
  • Lieberman-Warner fails to make polluters pay for the damage they wreck on the air your/my children breathe and the water they drink.
  • Lieberman-Warner fails to promote social equity.
  • Lieberman-Warner fails …

In addition to the fundamental failures of this bill to do what science says is required (at a minimum) and in a way to reward serial polluters at the expense of ordinary Americans, the legislative strategy is simply lousy Democratic politics.  The industries that would benefit from pollution permit giveaways heavily fund the Republican Party and right-wing think tanks.  And, bad politics for Nov 08: Lieberman and Warner both support McCain (strongly) and this is a bill that McCain could support. It is also a bill that falls far short of what both Hillary and Barack support.

Now, Senator Boxer has lavishly praised Senators Lieberman and Warner for their leadership.  She has called sheparding this inadequate and dangerous bill out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee “a huge step forward

Our progress on moving global warming legislation through the Environment and Public Works Committee this month and sending it on to the full Senate was a huge step forward for America, and personally, it was one of my proudest accomplishments over my 30 year career in public service.

Boxer’s disservice on the political front continued today as she said:

Senators Clinton, Obama, and McCain all support a strong Global Warming Bill.

Clinton and Obama have signed up to the far stronger Boxer-Sanders Bill while McCain can’t seem to be able to add his signature to that already too weak Coal-Subsidy Act.  And, there is a clear choice come November. Statements like Boxer’s contribute to the Greenwashing of John McCain’s Dirty Energy Twisted Non-action Machine> blurring of the R-D differences on Global Warming.

When challenged to Fix It or Ditch It, Senator Boxer reacted angrily.

In the shadow of this, some of America’s “leading” environmental organizations formed a phalanx behind Senator Boxer this morning.  While they might not all view it as so, their standing behind her as she praised Lieberman-Warner certainly suggested that they stand in support of her legislative strategy on Lieberman-Warner, seeking a debate on the Senate floor on Global Warming.  Seeking “test votes” for the record, fighting to strengthen an already too weak bill (highly unlikely to occur) and fighting to prevent further weakening of it (all too possible).

This is an inadequate bill. Anyone who is serious about Global Warming understands and agrees with this point. But, that is where the disagreement begins and begins seriously.

People’s mistaken beliefs on Lieberman-Warner

There are people who believe that we can’t do better than Lieberman-Warner in the face of the fossil fuel industry’s power.  Yes, we should abandon hope for the future because Exxon-Mobil and Peabody Coal have powerful lobbyists.

There are those who feel so beaten down by years of Republican rule that they are exhilarated to even have this discussion going to the floor.  The world has changed. Katrina opened a door, Al Gore walked through it, and our collective understanding of Global Warming has changed fundamentally.

There are those who argue that this is all academic, that George will simply veto any legislation.  Well, perhaps he would or perhaps he (or Cheney) might decide that signing this industry-favorable/environmentally unfriendly legislation is safer than risking President Obama or President Clinton (with 61 Democratic Party Senators) having a say in January 2009 as to America’s Global Warming / Climate Change law.

There are those who argue that we can always improve inadequate legislation later.    Once $500 billion or more in pollution permits have been given away to serial polluters, does anyone really expect that these resources can be recaptured?  And, how many years will pass and how much damage wrought before the legislation would be revisted?

Wednesday’s press conference

So, Barbara Boxer had an Environmental Phalanx of 15 organizations behind her:

Frances Beinecke, President, Natural Resources Defense Council

“The clean, efficient energy solutions needed to curb global warming constitute a huge economic opportunity for this country. The environmental community is unified on the urgent need to strengthen the Climate Security Act and pass comprehensive global warming legislation that cuts emissions by unlocking this potential,” said Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The groups gathered today represent tens of millions of Americans committed to protecting ourselves, our children and grandchildren from the worst impacts of global warming. All the environmental groups are committed to solving the problem of global warming fairly and effectively.”

So, how does moving money from the pockets of average (and poor) Americans into the bankrolls of serial pollutors contribute to “solving the problem of global warmign fairly”?
Carl Pope,
Executive Director, Sierra Club

“Action on global warming is urgently needed, but we also believe that any bill passed by Congress and signed into law must be a strong one,” said Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “A bill must do what science demands; ensure that polluters pay; aid workers and affected communities with a just transition; and prioritize and aggressively pursue energy efficiency, renewables and other technologies that offer the cleanest, cheapest, and safest emissions reductions.  We are working with our allies on the Hill and will continue to mount a vigorous campaign to strengthen this bill at every possible opportunity.  We are also unified in our efforts to defeat any weakening changes like direct subsidies for nuclear power, a so-called ‘safety valve’ provision, and any other changes that would take this bill backward.”

Read between the lines, Pope outlines the failures of Lieberman-Warner and the necessity for strengthening it.  Yet … yet … at the press conference, no reporter asked for an infamous “show of hands” as to who supports the Coal-Subsidy Act as it now stands.  Can’t imagine that Carl would have raised his hand to that one.  Others?

Gene Karpinski,
President, League of Conservation Voters

“This Congress received a mandate for a new direction in no small part because the American people were frustrated by a lack of leadership on energy policy by the previous Congress,” said Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters. “Last year it took the first step toward fulfilling that mandate by raising CAFÉ standards. Now, in the face of an economy dragged down by $100-plus per barrel crude, record oil company profits and a growing recognition of the need for immediate action on global warming, 2008 will be a year when the American people expect more. The best thing members of Congress can do this year — for the future of the planet, consumers, and the economy — is to support a strong global warming bill that achieves the emissions reductions the science shows are necessary.”

But, Gene, what do you think of Lieberman-Warner, which falls seriously short of the reductions “the science shows are necessary”?

Kevin Knobloch, President, Union of Concerned Scientists

“The science is clear on the need to cut global warming pollution swiftly and dramatically,” said Kevin Knobloch, President of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Now is the time for policymakers to put an economy-wide system in place to reduce emissions that will expand clean energy, produce jobs and increase community investment.”

Margie Alt, Executive Director, Environment America

“Congress must act quickly to address global warming, but it is just as important that we act boldly,” said Environment America Executive Director Margie Alt. “Our country’s response to global warming must be proportionate to the challenge confronting us. This bill must be strengthened to reduce pollution as quickly and deeply as the science requires and to set up the economic framework that will deter pollution, protect consumers, and adequately invest in the transition to a clean energy economy.”
What is quickly, Margie?  The Coal-Subsidy Act won’t start emissions cap until 2012.  Why is there a desperate need for action when January will almost certainly bring more favorable political alignment for more equitable and more effective action?

Fred Krupp, {resident, Environmental Defense

“Virtually every week new evidence comes forward making clear the urgency of strong action on global warming. We need significant emissions reductions, and we need them now. Delaying only means higher costs and a greater chance we will fail to achieve the goal,”

Same question Fred …

Also scheduled for participation were representatives of Center for International Law, Clean Water Action, National Wildlife Federation, Ocean Conservancy, Pew Environment Group, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and The Wilderness Society.</font>

Now, these organizations do not have a unified stance on Lieberman-Warner. There are some that seem perfectly comfortable with Lieberman-Warner Coal-Subsidy Act as it stands now. There are others who want to see it strengthened and will oppose final passage if it is not fixed.

And, this press conference was reportedly not about Lieberman-Warner, in specific, but about the need for the nation to address Global Warming, seriously and NOW!!!   For the environmental organizations to speak with Boxer about the need for more serious discussion and action than has been occurring.

But, this press conference occurred under the shadow of Lieberman-Warner and forming the phalanx behind Boxer creates the impression of support for Lieberman-Warner: no matter what any organization or individual might think.

Now, one element of interest is who seems to be absent from the press conference. Senators Lieberman and Warner? Hmmm … look to not be invited to the podium.  Wonder why not.

And, how about environmental organizations that have raised the most serious questions about Lieberman-Warner: Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Earth Justice?  Not on the list.   What kept them from joining the phalanx?  Boxer stated

There are rumors circulating that environmental groups are divided. That is not true. Environmental organizations are united. They want a necessary, strong bill.  We are united and we are going to work to that goal.

Well, about that supposed non-division. Today, Senator Boxer said that Lieberman-Warner did what is necessary.  The organizations forming the Phalanx might have created the sense of unity, but they don’t have united views. While some seem to support Lieberman-Warner as is, from Sierra Club’s Pope, “It is only a first step. We need to improve it.”  
From the non-present Friends of the Earth came a more pointed comment:

Friends of the Earth Action’s opposition to the Lieberman-Warner bill is not just strategic, it is also substantive.  This bill gives a trillion dollars to polluters, and it fails to meet the bar set by science and do what’s necessary to fight global warming.  To many environmental organizations, leaders and activists, this is unacceptable.

According to Greenpeace

We face a climate that has been compromised. Our environment has been compromised. Our future has been compromised, and the Lieberman-Warner bill is a compromise that we cannot afford.

No, Barbara, the environmental community is not united behind you.

A Question; Action

A question that we need to ask ourselves is whether “bad legislation NOW” more sensible than better legislation a year from now?

This press conference could have turned out to be a good event, with a large contingent of environmental organizations speaking strongly, with Senator Boxer, to the need for serious climate change legislation. Legislation that meets basic principles. Sadly, Lieberman-Warner is not that serious legislation, it does not meet those basic principles. And, purposefully or not, the Environmental Phalanx could create the impression of support for the Coal-Subsidy Act.

Want to take action? If you are a member of any of these organizations, contact them with a simple message:  Lieberman-Warner: Fix It or Ditch It!

To Senator Boxer (202-224-3553; web email form for CA residents), time to ask:

  • Do you really mean to be undercutting the Democratic Presidential nominee by so strongly speaking in favor of a bill written by two supporters of John McCain and a bill that falls short of the targets in both Senators Obama’s and Clinton’s energy/global warming plans?
  • Do you really expect our support for legislation that fails to meet basic scientific principles?  
  • Will you commit to “Fix It or Ditch It” rather than ‘protect it and keep it’?

Senator Boxer and every environmentalist at the press conference has done real work to help protect the planet. Sadly, Lieberman-Warner doesn’t fit in that category. Today’s press conference became a podium for supporting the Coal-Subsidy Act rather providing a launching point for meaningful action on Global Warming.

NOTE:  The press conference audio just became available.  On re-listening, there is some quite positive elements and quite concerning elements. Again, Senator Boxer merits credit for real concern over Global Warming.  The approach, however, with Lieberman-Warner is high-risk. And, her seeming definition of “necessary”, the minimum, does not seem to match scientific requirements nor basic principles as decent (forget perfect) global warming legislation.


4 responses to “Greenwashing reckless legislation — unintentionally or otherwise

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  2. Pingback: Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, and Statistics from industry on pollution control costs « Energy Smart

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