This week the Senate could potentially hold the first set of major
climate votes of the 112th Congress on up to four Dirty Air Acts:
McConnell-Inhofe, Rockefeller, Baucus, and Stabenow. For years now the
Senate has delayed comprehensive action on climate and clean energy -
the only major votes held on climate have been votes on
polluter-endorsed bills that would gut the Clean Air Act. This vote
could set the stage for further Clean Air Act and climate fights as
the 2012 election cycle approaches.
Last week Republicans in the Senate threatened to force a vote on the Upton-Inhofe Dirty Air Act. A vote will be delayed until after the one-week recess but it goes to show how committed big polluters and their allies in Congress are to gutting the Clean Air Act every chance they get. Energy-related disasters and conflicts in Japan and Libya continue to influence the U.S. dialogue on energy and climate policy.
This week's energy conversations have been dominated by the nuclear disaster in Japan. At one particular plant, three reactors are in danger of melting down if not properly cooled by the emergency efforts. Most U.S. politicians are sticking to their former stances on nuclear power, including President Obama, who remains supportive of building new nuclear facilities in the U.S. Anti-Clean Air Act bills in the House and Senate continue to inch forward, with a House vote possible in the coming weeks.
Politicians continue to attack the Clean Air Act on a daily basis as budget fights, science hearings, and consideration of anti-climate bills persist on Capitol Hill. The government is currently only funded for two more weeks, forcing a major budget compromise by March 18th. House GOP leadership is signaling that they are willing to back down on their most egregious anti-climate riders, but Clean Air Act-blocking legislation continues to be considered in the House and Senate with the introduction of the Upton-Inhofe bill.
Rallies sprung up nationwide this weekend in solidarity with the workers in Wisconsin. Much of the opposition faced by unions is from the same polluter-funded front groups that have opposed climate legislation for years. The protests in Wisconsin have the opportunity to be a key turning point in the fight against corporate influence on our politics. The House and Senate will return to D.C. this week for further consideration of short-term spending bills.
From Wisconsin to D.C., the talk of the town this week has been conservative budget bills and their potential consequences. In Congress, the GOP-led House amended their spending package to include a complete shutdown of climate and clean energy programs ranging from subtle tweaks to all-out gutting of the Clean Air Act and state-based climate law enforcement. The budget agreed upon by the House is so drastic that leaders in the Senate will likely scrap it and start from scratch with their own version. Right now the government is funded through March 4th.
The Clean Air Act and climate change-related policies are under attack from all sides in D.C. this week. In an ongoing showdown, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is considering Chairman Fred Upton's (R-MI) "dirty air" bill. Meanwhile, the full House is pulling climate regulations and clean energy investments into a fight over the budget. Rhetoric suggests that the Clean Air Act and climate policy generally will continue to be points of contention throughout the upcoming budget process.
The Obama administration seems to think "climate change" is too divisive to mention, but underwriting clean energy tech? That's bipartisan.
Surprisingly, conservative commentators didn't seem to buy it. Why? Government intervention, absent a large-scale emergency, goes against basic conservative philosophy. All they see is needless government intervention into energy technology, and they have a point. Absent climate change, where is the urgency?
Last week President Obama delivered a tone-setting State of the Union
Speech before the new Congress and 48 million viewers nationwide.
Widely regarded as a move to the political center, Obama's speech
addressed many criticisms levied on the president by Republicans and
the business community. The president spoke at length about the
promise of "clean" energy, yet he included nuclear, natural gas and
"clean" coal in his definition (everything but old coal plants).