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Climate Bill Farming Concessions – Good or Bad?

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I read an article from yesterday that provides a good place to bring a number of climate and energy related items together.  Controversial deals behind climate bill presents the unfortunate circumstance of some Democrats’ refusal to back the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) unless agriculture intensive areas were largely exempted from paying for the measures included in the legislation.  This concession was won despite the fact that farmers and rural areas get a disproportionate amount of their energy from coal plants – the dirtiest and most polluting energy sources in use today.  Among those Democrats are Rep. John Salazar (CO-03) and Rep. Betsy Markey (CO-04).

I make this point while holding a good deal of respect for farmers – the actual folks who are out on their land far earlier in the morning than I’m up and who work until later than I do every day – often just to survive, both physically and economically.  But the point of any legislation that says it deals with energy and security needs to address the usage of fossil fuels, among many other purposes.  By that, I mean that the legislation needs to reduce our bad habits and encourage good habits.  Burning coal needs to stop – the sooner the better.  By ensuring that rural citizens won’t have to face any temporary cost increases on the way toward phasing out coal burning, Democrats are passing the costs along, which is pretty irresponsible.

Someone, somewhere will eventually have to pay for reducing greenhouse pollution.  Will it be urban citizens today?  Will it be rural citizens in the near future?  Will it be urban and rural citizens at a future date?  The answers to those questions seem very relevant to me – and in my opinion, they’re not being addressed by the corporate media in any regularly meaningful way.  It’s good for me as a blogger that some recent articles were written that get at these details, which I will share and try to tie together below.

H.R. 2454 (ACES) is coming up for a vote this afternoon in the House.  As a quick action item, I’m providing some numbers for Reps. Markey and Salazar, cited as some of the fence-sitting Dems.  Give them a quick call and ask them to vote for H.R. 2454.

Rep. Markey:

  • p. 202.225.4676
  • f. 202.225.5870

Rep. Salazar:

  • p. 202.225.4761
  • f. 202.226.9669

As currently written (to the best of my knowledge), the bill in the House would set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17% of 2005 levels by 2020 and 80%+ by 2050.  As someone who has followed the science surrounding greenhouse gases and climate change pretty closely for a few years now, I want to be clear that I don’t think the 2020 goal goes far enough.  I certainly hope I’m proven wrong as the measures in the bill are enacted and take effect.

Among the many specific details in this legislation, it worries me that the Dept. of Agriculture and not the Environmental Protection Agency will be responsible for deciding how farms will have to curb their emissions.  There is nothing in the Dept. of Ag’s mission that indicates that they have experience with or are interested in monitoring or reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  That’s not a knock against the agency – it is a straightforward observation.  Neither am I saying that the Dept. of Ag won’t seek emissions expertise from other government agencies.  However, something that bedevils all government agencies is a tendency to become insular – robust collaboration across agencies with regard to implementing policy isn’t the first characterization of those agencies that comes to mind.

The Democrats were somewhat justifiably concerned about potential rising energy costs.  I say “somewhat justifiably” for a few reasons.  The easiest is their lack of public concern regarding rising energy prices in the past due to other pieces of legislation or especially corporate greed.  Energy prices outpaced inflation and real-wage increases (which were actually zero) this entire decade, most of which had Bush and the Cons running the country into the ground.  The same Democrats threatening to go home pouting now (not Salazar or Markey, btw) were nowhere to be seen on the energy price front until last summer when they skyrocketed so high so fast that the corporate media’s obsession with infotainment couldn’t mask them anymore.  Their concern doesn’t seem to be morally founded, which is disturbing.

There are trustworthy cost estimates available, more so now than before this Congressional session.  The latest, by the Congressional Budget Office, estimates that the annual cost by 2020 would be $22 billion on the entire economy; or $175 per household on average (note that averages tend to be skewed by outliers).  Cons, as usual, spent yesterday talking about gross costs as well as citing cost estimates that have been thoroughly debunked by climate and energy activists.

As I’ve written about before, groups like the McKinsey Group have shown in a couple of reports that actions taken to reduce our greenhouse forcing can be revenue neutral.  By 2030, McKinsey estimates a 0.6-1.4% cost to the global economy.  By 2050, McKinsey estimates a 1% rise or a 5% decrease in costs are possible.

Might there be a short-term cost involved?  It looks likely.  In contrast, what are the costs incurred by doing nothing?  That’s a subject the Cons don’t want to go near – and nobody in the corporate media is making them answer that easy question.

For starters, the link between climate change and extreme weather events is by now evident.  Extreme weather events such as intense drought and torrential rains when they do come are only going to become more common and intense if action continues to be delayed.  Papers like Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate and the Earth Policy Institute’s Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization give us a clear view of the dangers involved with further delay.  The bottom line: climate change will challenge societies worldwide more than any other issue in the 21st century.  1C warming translates to a 10% reduction in staple crop yields.  With 2C-10C possible warming in select regions, massive crop failures would be the result, especially in the face of populations that continue to rise.  How much would a 10%, 20% or more reduction in yield cost farmers?  More than that it’s a short road from crop failure to political instability.  Falling governments compared to a couple hundred dollars more on an energy bill – the choice seems pretty clear to me.

The problem, of course, is none of this is being communicated to the interested parties.  How many farmers know about the downside of doing nothing about climate?  Even if they knew, would they still not support action if it meant higher costs?

The Denver Post front-paged an article about the bill this morning, citing Salazar and Markey as potential swing votes as the bill comes up in the House today.  It also notes that the Wildlife Action Fund and the League of Conservation Voters are watching Markey’s vote especially close.  I have close to the same sentiment as the LCV – I will have a very hard time supporting a Democrat, no matter the district, if they vote against this bill.  It’s not a progressive vs. con issue.  It’s a moral issue.

Given the reasons to vote for the bill, as I outlined above, it is disheartening to note that political backers of this bill don’t mention the climate change effects a business-as-usual approach would entail.  Economic arguments have taken sway, which is perhaps natural considering the sorry state of the economy.  Unfortunately, Rep. Markey’s spokesman Ben Marter was quoted in the Post article pooh-poohing the environmental angle:

Markey will “ultimately make a decision in the best interest of her district, the state and the country, not for any one group.”

That sounds really good as a soundbite, Ben.  If the Eastern Plains turn into a desert, as is currently predicted under business-as-usual conditions, I don’t think the 4th district will be particularly happy with that outcome.  The environmental ramifications dominate the interests of the district.  I hope such short-sightedness doesn’t derail or stall the necessary actions we all must take.

Here are Rep. Markey‘s Washington contact numbers.  Please take a moment this morning to give her office a quick call and encourage her to vote for H.R. 2454.

  • p. 202.225.4676
  • f. 202.225.5870

Here are Rep. Salazar‘s Washington contact numbers.  Please take a moment this morning to give his office a quick call and encourage him to vote for H.R. 2454.

  • p. 202.225.4761
  • f. 202.226.9669

Cross-posted at SquareState.

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3 thoughts on “Climate Bill Farming Concessions – Good or Bad?

  1. Are you shitting me you dim witted ass hat! there is NO such thing as manmade global warming. Before you get your butt all up around your neck in rightous indignation know this: In the 70’s there was an enormous global climate crisis looming on the horizon global cooling the second ice age, B.S. then the hole in the ozone layer oopsie more BS now we are suppose to believe in this fairy tale. I don’t think so. We are not all sheep you twit. There will come a day when the dems aren’t running the world and then this shit legislation and pseudo science will be swept aside till then enjoy your brief ride.

  2. Weatherdem: where science meets propaganda

  3. Yawn. More name-calling and the same tired talking points? There’s nothing to see here, folks.

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