“In Areas Fueled By Coal, Climate Bill Sends Chill” — so goes the title of a recent New York Times article by Felicity Barringer, in which she persuasively describes the “wounded economy” of Missouri. She explained the state’s reliance on “21 coal-fired power plants that emit more than 75 million tons of carbon dioxide annually and generate 80 percent of Missouri’s electricity,” based on “economic incentives built into the state’s laws, history and habits” that “encourage burning as much coal as possible.” But coal-state Democrats are fighting “legislation that would put a price on carbon-dioxide emissions”:
Missouri is hardly alone. Nebraska, Indiana and Iowa are also states where coal turns on most of the lights. That is why, even before Representatives Henry A. Waxman of California and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, both Democrats, proposed legislation that would put a price on carbon-dioxide emissions, Senate and House Democrats from coal-using states began to push back. They are concerned that the new costs would get passed on to consumers, to Ms. Daniels-Hanner, to farmers from rural Missouri and to employers like the energy-hungry Noranda aluminum plant in New Madrid in the southeast of the state, which has 1,000 workers. And they worry that in an already wounded economy, increased costs could turn one of the relatively few economic blessings into a blight.
Is that really what “coal-state Democrats like Senator Claire McCaskill” are concerned about? After all, the “low-cost electricity” in coal states hasn’t helped their citizens much. In fact, states with higher electricity rates also have higher wages. Limiting coal pollution will increase the health of their constituents and spur a clean-energy economic recovery.
The actual beneficiary of coal’s dominance in states like Missouri have not been the working people Felicity Barringer profiles, but rather the polluting corporations and their conservative allies. In particular, Missouri is home to “the world’s leading coal merchant,” Peabody Energy, and the 20th largest utility in the country, Ameren. Peabody and Ameren respectively pulled in $6.6 billion and $7.5 billion in annual revenues in 2008. Peabody CEO Gregory Boyce’s salary was $11.95 million in 2008 — Ameren CEO Gary Rainwater made $5 million. Strangely for a piece about the politics of regulating coal’s pollution, Barringer fails to note Peabody and Ameren’s outsized political influence:
Peabody Is A Top Contributor To Coal-State Senators. In 2008, Peabody Energy was a top contributor to Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO: $96,200), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY: $75,600), Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN: $54,800), Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV: $34,200), Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN: $20,700), and Sen. Claire McCaskill ($11,300). [OpenSecrets]
Ameren And Peabody Are Top Contributors To Missouri’s Politicians. Peabody Energy contributed $150,100 to Missouri’s Congressional delegation during the 2008 cycle. Ameren Corporation contributed a total of $120,200, including $53,500 to Sen. Kit Bond (R) and $15,700 to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D). [OpenSecrets]
Peabody Is An $8.4 Million Lobbying Juggernaut. Peabody Energy directly spent over $8.4 million lobbying Congress in 2008, up 3,200 percent from 2004, as legislation to limit coal pollution became an election-year issue. In addition, the Peabody-supported front groups ACCCE and the National Mining Association spent a further $9.95 million and $4.56 million respectively on lobbying efforts. [OpenSecrets]
Ameren Spent $3.6 Million Lobbying Congress in 2008. Ameren Corporation’s lobbying efforts have skyrocketed in recent years, surging from $586,000 in 2003 to nearly $3.6 million in 2008. [OpenSecrets]
Peabody and Ameren’s coal plutocrats are spending millions on Washington D.C. so that they can continue to make billions destroying the American economy and the planet. After legislation to cap global warming pollution was introduced in Congress, Peabody Energy executives organized a coalition of coal interests, including Ameren Corporation, with an agenda of “opposing government-mandated controls of greenhouse gases (GHG), opposing ‘regulation by litigation’, and supporting sequestration and technology as the proper vehicles for addressing any reasonable concerns about greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere,” according to a secret 2004 memo. This coalition, now known as the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, spent $45 million in 2008 to block the regulation of global warming pollution.
A spokesman for Sen. McCaskill tells the Wonk Room:
Senator McCaskill supports cap and trade to curb carbon emissions. She wholeheartedly believes that global warming must be slowed.
But 85% of Missouri’s power is currently supplied by coal. Missouri’s power grid is so outdated that, if enacted right now, such legislation would be disastrous for Missouri’s energy consumers, because regional monopolies ensure there is no competitive alternative — the costs borne by energy companies would be completely passed on. That’s why Sen. McCaskill supported provisions in the stimulus to modernize the power grid and ready Missouri and other coal-dependent states to receive energy from alternative sources.
Even with the modernization projects, cap and trade will raise prices for consumers, so Sen. McCaskill wants to make sure that revenue from carbon taxation goes back to help cushion that blow.
Sen. McCaskill couldn’t care less about energy company profits — she wants to protect Missouri’s energy consumers.
,At Get Energy Smart Now, A. Siegel writes:
If Claire “wholeheartedly believes that global warming must be slowed,” her actions in the Senate certainly don’t show it. The most generous comment would be that she “wholeheartedly believes” that we should be dealing with Global Warming as long as it doesn’t inconvenience anyone in her state. She seems to buy into right-wing propaganda and framing far too often.