Greenwashing reckless legislation?

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 votes in 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 will hold a press conference Wednesday, 12 March, with a range of environmental organizations: Boxer and Environmental Leaders United on Urgent Need to Address Global Warming

This press conference, reportedly, is 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 …

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.

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

In the shadow of this, some of America’s “leading” environmental organizations will form a phalanx behind Senator Boxer, evidently 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 will have an Environmental Phalanx behind her:

Frances Beinecke,
President, Natural Resources Defense Council

Carl Pope,
Executive Director, Sierra Club

Gene Karpinski,
President, League of Conservation Voters

Kevin Knobloch,
President, Union of Concerned Scientists

Also participating will be representatives of Environment America, Environmental Defense, Center for International Law, Clean Water Action, National Wildlife Federation, Ocean Conservancy, Pew Environment Group, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and The Wilderness Society.

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 is 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 is under the shadow of Lieberman-Warner and forming the phalanx behind Boxer creates the impression of support for Lieberman-Warner.  

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?

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 turn 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”? 

Senator Boxer and every environmentalist showing up at the press conference has done real work to help protect the planet. Sadly, Lieberman-Warner doesn’t fit in that category and tomorrow’s press conference could become a podium for supporting the Coal-Subsidy Act.


2 responses to “Greenwashing reckless legislation?

  1. Please tell me how shooting down a “step in the right direction” is a good idea? Why not just start crafting the next bill pronto. I’m sick of this. I want to see global warming legislation even if it isn’t perfect, at first. It’s not green washing, it’s an attempt at progress. Environmental groups just need to be careful not to get complacent…which they won’t (ahem, it is their job after all). I’ll be really distraught if this bill doesn’t pass. This blog is a disappointment.

  2. Danielle,

    Lieberman-Warner is not a “step in the right direction”. This is not “perfect being enemy of the good”.

    No, this is “necessary” and “sufficienct” being the enemy of inadequate and dangerous.

    Lieberman-Warner fails to meet the science as to the minimum required to provide a 50% chance to avoid catastrophic climate change; its financial giveaways will greatly increase the cost/reduce effectiveness of fighting Global Warming; its processes will foster windfall profits rather than windfall reductions in CO2; etc …

    And, even if it does not pass, the praising of this bill, Barbara Boxer’s discussion that if it does not pass she will reintroduce it next year, etc mean that we are negotiating and dealing from a bad position.

    “Disappointment” … I’m not interested in satisfying the emotional needs of those unwilling to read, absorb, understand what I write.

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