Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ag Committee/Lobby Stymies Climate Regulations

H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, finally passed through the Energy and Commerce Committee of the House a few weeks ago, after weeks and weeks of tough negotiations, and lots of unfortunate compromises that will only serve to further slow the process of cutting carbon emissions in the United States. Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, the crafters of the original bill, have since been meeting with lawmakers in the House, explaining to them the functions of various components of the bill, as well as the "safety valves" encouraged by more conservative Democrats like Rick Boucher, who have also recently been promoting the merits of the bill to Congress.

Now, with Speaker Pelosi interested in calling the bill to a floor vote possibly within a week, one great obstacle has stood in the way of passage: the House Agriculture Committee. The chair of the committee, Collin Peterson, a Democrat who represents all of western Minnesota, has remained stubbornly opposed to the bill's passage, not because it directly impacts farmers, but because it doesn't benefit them enough. Peterson wants to be able to enhance the ability for farmers and agrobusinesses to reap the benefits of biofuels such as corn ethanol, as well as give them more opportunities to sell carbon offsets to other polluters.

The ag business community is most fervently opposed to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) having any role in compelling them to monitor their greenhouse gas emissions, and Peterson actually sponsored an amendment to cut off funding for the EPA's analysis into whether corn ethanol actually has such a great deal of indirect carbon emissions associated with its life cycle that it is in some ways more harmful than gasoline. Cutting of funds for a scientific analysis—now there's a useful way to get your agenda across.

And Peterson's committee is certainly not the only one that's helping to squander our best chance to address climate change. The House Appropriations Committeee just approved an interior appropriations bill establishing the EPA's budget for fiscal year 2010, but incorporated two amendments wherein 1) the agency is not allowed to tell farmers to even report their emissions, and 2) all livestock operations are exempt from possible future climate regulations. The ag lobby seems to have Congress right where they want them.

The worst part is this quote by Rep. Peterson:
My problem this year is it's been so cold that the crops aren't coming up. And they're saying to us, 'Oh, it's such a big problem because it's going to be warmer than it usually is.' My farmers are going to say that's a good thing—we're going to be able to grow more corn.
Well, while south Asian countries are being flooded, Pacific islands are submerging, desertification is rendering African farmland unusable, ice caps are melting, weather conditions are becoming more erratic, and millennia-old ecosystems are being quickly destroyed, at least Minnesota farmers might have a few good harvests.

Images: Collin Peterson (, ag lobby cartoon (, corn field (Climate Chnage Connection)

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