In an agricultural hearing Thursday, committee chair Collin Peterson (D-MN) offered a withering critique of the comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation under consideration by the House of Representatives. Peterson, a conservative Blue Dog Democrat, attacked the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) for including both clean energy and global warming pollution standards:
My big problem is that they are mixing climate change together with energy independence. I don’t think that is smart.
In fact, it is Peterson, like other skeptics of action on climate change, who is not being “smart.” Reforming our broken energy policy requires recognition that the entire lifecycle of energy use matters. As Vice President Al Gore has explained, our energy and climate crises are “linked by a common thread – our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels.”
Closely aligned with the interests of his corporate agriculture contributors, Peterson is attempting to subvert Waxman-Markey, to replace our policy of fossil fuel subsidies without regulation with one of agriculture subsidies without regulation.
Like other attempts to outlaw science, Peterson wants to forbid the federal government from even recognizing agricultural pollution. By replacing petroleum, biofuels have the potential to dramatically reduce global warming pollution. But scientists have found biofuels can also worsen global warming by encouraging farmers to cut down the diversity-rich tropical forests that soak up carbon dioxide. Similarly, farmers may be able to trap more carbon in soil and plants through changes in agricultural practices, allowing them to sell billions of dollars of “offsets” in a carbon cap-and-trade market. But poorly regulated offsets are little more than worthless subsidies.
Following the law, the Environmental Protection Agency is taking steps to consider the global warming consequences of biofuel production as it develops new renewable fuels standards. Similarly, Waxman-Markey would put the EPA Administrator and an independent scientific board in charge of devising the rules for agricultural offsets to maintain their integrity. Peterson’s response? Forbid the government from using science to guide its green-farm policy:
A lot of us on the Committee do not want the EPA near our farms. And, I don’t think you are going to get any type of a bill through Congress, whatever the administration wants, that is going to have that system, for whatever it is worth.
At Grist, Tom Philpott debunks Peterson’s apologia for Big Ag:
The current version of Waxman-Markey contains almost no language on agriculture. (As I’ve written before, agriculture is exempt from any cap on greenhouse-gas emissions.) But farming projects would still be eligible for offsets through an offsets-review board that the legislation would set up within the EPA. Big Ag isn’t content with that arrangement. In the coming days, the game will be to insert specific language around ag offsets into the legislation —and promote a certification process developed by Big Ag itself.
In short, Peterson is playing a high-stakes game of chicken with our planet and farmers’s own livelihoods in order to force Congressional leadership to allow agricultural giants like Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland to rewrite this critical climate and clean energy legislation to their benefit. For weeks, Peterson has threatened to block Waxman-Markey if his demands on behalf of industrial agriculture are not met. And right now it looks like he’s going to win.