“Getting Serious About Global Warming”
September 24, 2009, 3:00am

by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Brad Johnson, and Zaid Jilani

Even as pressure builds for the U.S. Senate to take action on global warming, polluters have intensified their campaigns to block clean energy reform. With only 74 days until the world’s nations are to meet in Copenhagen, Denmark to negotiate the successor to the Kyoto climate treaty, President Obama has reaffirmed his commitment to tackle climate change, end fossil fuel subsidies, and build a clean-energy economy. “The security and stability of each nation and all peoples — our prosperity, our health, our safety — are in jeopardy,” Obama told the U.N. Climate Summit in New York City yesterday. “And the time we have to reverse this tide is running out. And yet, we can reverse it.” However, “the U.S. has been dragging its feet for eight years,” Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) told reporters yes terday. Critics are right to blame the Senate for inaction, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) explained, because “polluting industries see the Senate as a place where they can hold 40 votes.” Members of the Senate who resist moving forward — and their corporate allies — argue that capping global warming pollution threatens an already weak economy. However, “solving global warming means investment,” Center for American Progress president John Podesta writes in a new report. “Moving beyond pollution from fossil fuels will involve exciting work, new opportunities, new products and innovation, and stronger communities. Our current national discussion about constraints, limits, and the costs of transition misses the real excitement in this proposition.”

‘FLAT OUT WRONG’: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Energy Information Administration, and the Congressional Budget Office have each separately analyzed the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act, finding that this clean energy legislation woul d cut electricity bills, reduce global warming pollution, and cut oil dependence at a cost of about a postage stamp a day. However, based on Treasury Department documents acquired by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), Declan McCullagh, a libertarian blogger for CBS, claimed that “a cap and trade law” to establish global warming standards “would cost American taxpayers up to $200 billion a year, the equivalent of hiking personal income taxes by about 15 percent.” Even though the Treasury Department has called McCullagh’s tale of a $1,761 tax “flat out wrong” — in part because “the revenue raised from emission permits would be returned to consumers under both administration and legislative proposals” — conservatives and polluters have repeated McCullagh’s false analysis. The American Petroleum Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and at least 12 Republican officials — from former Alaska governor Sarah Palin to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) — promoted the lie. Radical Fox News host Glenn Beck — a keynote speaker for the Chamber of Commerce who is praised by Republicans as a truth-teller — used the false story to accuse Obama of “outright lies.”

CORPORATE UNREST: Corporations concerned by climate change are turning away from the unethical fearmongering by industry trade groups against a clean-energy economy. Yesterday, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), California’s primary electricity provider, anno unced it was leaving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because of “irreconcilable differences” with the Chamber’s reactionary stance on global warming, which includes calling for a “Scopes monkey trial” on climate science. PG&E Chairman and Chief Executive Peter Darbee wrote that company employees “find it dismaying that the Chamber neglects the indisputable fact that a decisive majority of experts have said the data on global warming are compelling and point to a threat that cannot be ignored.” Nike, which is still a member of the Chamber, rebuked the organization: “It is not a time for debate but instead a time for action.” Similarly, Duke Energy, which wants to “get to work on a climate bill,” left the National Association of Manufacturers for calling the ACES Act “anti-jobs, anti-growth” legislation. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity — the lobbying juggernaut caught forging letters to Congress opposing energy reform — has lost several members in recent months, including Duke Energy, Alcoa, and Alstom Power.

SENATE OBSTRUCTION: Not only has the Senate let action on clean energy legislation slide, some of its members are attempting to block the Obama administration from moving forward. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who denies the human influence on global warming, has submitted an amendment to the Interior appropriations bill (H.R. 2996) to block=2 0funding for centers that study and prepare for the impacts of climate change. Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) has “filed two amendments that would restrict U.S. EPA’s ability to impose new carbon dioxide regulations.” And Sen.. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) “wants to take away U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authority to limit greenhouse gas emissions from oil refineries, coal-burning power plants and other smokestack industries.” Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) attacked EPA action as well, saying that “the alphabet agencies are not the fourth branch of government, and they ought to take judicial notice of what’s happening and what’s not happening in the Senate.” Many senators seem to believe that the 12 years of inaction since they rejected the Kyoto treaty in 1997 are not enough. However, as the European Union’s amb assador to the U.S., John Bruton, has expressed, “The world cannot wait on the Senate’s timetable.”

ENVIRONMENT — SEN. VITTER TRIES TO BLOCK CLIMATE CHANGE RESPONSE CENTERS: Global warming denier Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) — whose state was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 — has submitted an amendment (S. Amdt. 2450) to the Interior appropriations bill (H.R. 2996) that would block funding for centers that study and prepare for the impacts of climate change. The amendment reads: No funds made available by this Act may be used to develop Regional Climate Change offices within the Department of the Interior.” On Sept. 14, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced a comprehensive framework for his department’s response to climate change impacts, including the establishme nt of eight Regional Climate Change Response Centers that Vitter’s amendment would de-fund. Vitter’s attempt to decimate climate change response centers is particularly abhorrent for a senator from the state that Katrina ravaged. The 2005 hurricane was significantly intensified by the effects of climate change, which the senator apparently does not want studied.. As hurricane scientist Kerry Emmanuel has said, “Probably if Hurricane Katrina happened in 1980, the levees would have held.” Earlier this month, Vitter also introduced an amendment to prohibit funding for directives from the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, that would further curb efforts to study and respond to climate change, potentially leading to more climate-based disasters such as Katrina.

Preside nt Obama “is exploring alternatives to a major troop increase in Afghanistan,” including a plan advocated by Vice President Biden “to scale back American forces and focus more on rooting out Al Qaeda.” Despite launching a new strategy in March, the review comes amid deteriorating conditions, the recent disputed elections, and Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s dire report.

The Obama administration is set to announce a new policy “making it much more difficult for the government to claim that it is protecting state secrets when it hides details of sensitive national security strategies.” Agencies must now convince the Justice Department “that the release of sensitive information would present significant harm to ‘national defense or foreign relations.'”

At the U.N. today, President Obama “plans to deliver a stern speech to the leaders of the world’s nations,” challenging them “to live up to their responsibilities even as he acknowledges that the United States has also fallen short on many fronts.” “Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone,” Obama will say..

Sarah Palin made her Asian debut with a speech in Hong Kong, in which she spoke as “someone from Main Street U.S.A.” At the event, which was closed to the press, Palin blamed government for the current financial crisis. “We got into this mess because of government interference in the first place,” she said, adding, “We’re not interested in government fixes, we’re interested in freedom.”

The Seattle Times reports that there will be only one reporter allowed at the “Welcome Home Glenn Beck” event in Mount Vernon, Washington. The Fox News host is attending the sold-out event to raise money for Mount Vernon’s historic Lincoln Theater and will also receive the key to the city from Mount Vernon’s mayor.

The House voted 331-83 yesterday to extend unemployment benefits “in hard-hit states through the end of the year.” Approximately 314,000 people were set to exhaust their benefits this month.. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has promised that the Senate will take up the legislation “very, very quickly.”

The Massachusetts Senate voted approved a bill yesterday that will allow Gov. Deval Patrick (D) to “appoint an interim successor to Edward M. Kennedy, paving the way for the appointment of a new US senator as early as tomorrow.” The House approved a similar measure five days earlier and “both chambers are planning to give a final procedural endorsement to the measure and to send it to the governor’s desk today.”

Former Republican Florida senator Mel Martinez, who quit his job with a year remaining in his term, has landed at a major international law firm. DLA Piper announced that it hired Martinez “to advise clients on a range of issues.” The former senator will be banned from lobbying for two years per congressional rules.

The Washington Times reports that conservative and business groups are20″launching fresh challenges aimed at derailing President Obama’s nominees.” Emboldened by the ouster of green jobs adviser Van Jones, Obama’s opponents are now targeting David Michaels, the president’s pick to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)..

And finally: Who’s the chattiest member of Congress? That would be Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), who spoke 257,274 words last session. According to a new website, Congress Speaks, California was the most loquacious state, and some of the most common words were “California,” “country,” and “Iraq.”