Even though his state is still rebuilding from unprecedented floods, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) is committed to coal and wary of fighting climate change. Dorgan told the North Dakota Senate that he was concerned that the market created by capping global warming pollution could be open to manipulation:
I’m not very interested with having a bunch of folks with a bunch of money get their mitts on trading credits, and have our future and our destiny tied to their interests. I feel very strongly there’s something going on with our climate. We need to be attentive to it, we need to deal with it, but as we do, we have to be smart.
It’s legitimate to have a concern about the regulatory structure of a carbon market, about one-tenth the size of the fossil-fuel commodity markets, and Sen. Dorgan has the expertise to design the legislation. But he seems to be letting a policy detail obscure the real issue — that global warming pollution is completely unregulated, allowing corporate polluters to make astronomical profits while destroying the atmosphere.
This carbon loophole has allowed pollution giants like Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries, Peabody Coal, and Massey Energy to ravage the planet, sicken our children, and rake in obscene profits for decades. Now, as North Dakota reels from its third extreme flood in as many years, scientists are warning that the climate crisis is outstripping their projections.
Yet Dorgan seems to be confusing political “reality” with actual reality, when he summarily dismissed Vice President Al Gore’s “Repower America” call that “the nation should rely solely on renewable fuels by 2020″:
Not going to happen. Not even close. We need to continue to use our most abundant resource, but to be able to do that, we have to be able to unlock the technology … to decarbonize coal, and we’re going to do that.
Again, Dorgan is missing the forest for the trees. Dorgan is strikingly pessimistic that America can free itself of fossil fuel dependence, even though the sun, wind, and human ingenuity are much more “abundant” resources than coal. Yet he willing to guarantee the success of experimental carbon capture and sequestration technology for coal-fired power plants Of course, a $300 million loan to a North Dakota coal plant for CCS development may help it along. If Dorgan truly wants CCS to happen, he should recognize that the most important thing the government can do is to create a market for clean energy by passing strong cap-and-trade legislation as soon as possible. Unfortunately, his voting record reveals he puts GOP filibusters of clean energy legislation above the security and health of the United States.