Murkowskis Big Oil Bailout Bombs

NRDC’s Beinecke: The Senate Votes in Favor of Science, Oil Savings, and Climate Action

UPDATE:  The Hill has posted, “Analysis: GOP backing for Murkowski EPA plan doesn’t sink climate bill,” excerpted at the end.

Today the Senate rejected Senator Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) big oil bail out resolution that would have blocked new fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for vehicles.  The motion to proceed to her resolution, S.J. Res. 26, failed on a vote of 47-53.

It failed on a mostly party line vote, with all Republicans voting with big oil, and all but six Democrats voting against it.  The Democrats who voted to block efforts to save oil and reduce pollution were:

  • Evan Bayh IN
  • Mary Landrieu LA
  • Blanche Lincoln AR
  • Ben Nelson NE
  • Mark Pryor AR
  • Jay Rockefeller WV

It was particularly disappointing that Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) voted for the big oil bail out bill.  Both have cosponsored bills to reduce global warming pollution, but bowed to pressure from big oil and the Senate Republican leadership.  Incredibly, Senator Collins published an op-ed this morning that said

We must “¦reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Yet the resolution would have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency from establishing fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for vehicles.  EPA predicted that if the resolution became law, then oil use would have grown by nearly one billion barrels due to less efficient cars and trucks.  Senator Reid said that this would provide an additional $47 billion to oil companies.

Contrast her hypocrisy with the leadership demonstrated by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) who is trying to smooth West Virginia’s transition to a sustainable 21st economy:

This Resolution, I fear, would have a sweeping impact. It could preclude action to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil. It could delay critical investments in clean coal technologies. That’s not a national energy strategy I can or want to support. My vote today against the Murkowski Resolution is a vote for coal’s future and my intention to continue to have a seat at the table and a voice for West Virginia in how we legislate our energy future.

The tragic death of 29 miners at the Massey mine, and the growing calamity from the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico are deadly reminders of the cost of the United States’ dependence on coal and oil. The Senate should promptly enact reforms that would increase oil and coal production safeguards, reduce oil use, and cut oil and coal pollution.

Now is the time for action.  Some senators who voted for Senator Murkowski’s resolution indictated that they agree, but that they want Congress, and not EPA, to adopt measures to reduce oil consumption and pollution.  Now it is incumbent upon them to join Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), John Kerry (D-MA), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Harry Reid (D-NV) Byrd, and others to develop and pass comprehensive clean energy legislation that provides safeguards for oil production, reduces oil use, and cuts global warming pollution from oil and coal, and invests in renewable energy, efficiency, and clean energy manufacturing. Otherwise, their rhetoric today will be as empty as the blighted beaches of the Gulf coast.

— CAP’s Dan Weiss

JR:  And here is The Hill quoting “a snap analysis by the consulting firm ClearView Energy Partners [which] says the unified GOP vote isn’t necessarily a bad sign for climate legislation that may come to the floor this year”:

No Republicans voted against the resolution. This does not mean, however, that that all 41 Republicans will vote against a climate bill that could deliver substantial economic benefits to their states. Although American Power Act architect Lindsey Graham (R-SC) remains opposed to the legislation he helped craft, we reiterate that, with (a) a pro-drilling, pro-safety compromise that provides political “containment” of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill; and (b) explicit support by coal state Democrats, Senator Graham and other green-leaning Republicans may find themselves with the opportunity to negotiate even greater provisions on behalf of their constituents in return for offering the decisive votes in support of passage (60 Senate votes would be required).

And here is NRDC chief Francis Beinecke from her blog:

Today the Senate made the smart choice of voting down Senator Murkowski’s resolution to undermine the EPA’s authority to reduce global warming pollution. Now we can move to the real work at hand: passing clean energy and climate legislation.

Murkowski’s resolution was a dangerous distraction from the start, an anti-science folly that would have reversed the widely supported Obama Administration clean car measures that will save Americans 19 billion gallons of gasoline. To increase demand for gasoline even as oil pours into the Gulf of Mexico is unfathomable.

Rather than offer solutions, Murkowski seemed to want to turn America’s back on the pressing challenges of oil dependence, climate change, and hazardous pollution.

The Senate refused to step backward. It moved instead toward a cleaner future.

Today the Senate voted for science. Although Senator Murkowski claimed she doesn’t dispute climate science, the very nature of her resolution asked the Senate to nullify the EPA’s findings, as well as the overwhelming consensus of the National Academy of Sciences and numerous other sources. Senators chose instead to stand by the scientific evidence.

Today the Senate voted for the Clean Air Act. Rather than letting polluters police their own global warming pollution, the Senate affirmed that the same successful EPA model that reduced lead, acid rain, and ozone-depleting chemicals should be used for carbon emissions as well.

Today the Senate voted for climate action. It confirmed that America must begin reducing the dangerous pollution that causes global warming.

This is good start.  Now we must take the next step: passing clean energy and climate legislation.

And we will need all hands on deck to get it done. I will be keeping my eye on those Senators, including Senator Collins and Senator Rockefeller, who voted for this resolution even while saying they accept the science and the urgent need for action. The burden is now on them to demonstrate their seriousness, and I hope to see them roll up their sleeves and get to work building a 60-vote majority for passing comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this summer.

This bill has become a top priority legislative priority. Last week, President Obama made his strongest case yet for enacting a comprehensive bill. He said, “I will continue to make the case for a clean energy future wherever and whenever I can, and I will work with anyone from either party to get this done.  But we will get this done.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, meanwhile, urged the Senate Chairmen to focus on comprehensive clean energy legislation so they can bring a bill to the floor during the July work period.

There are several clean energy and climate proposals circulating in the Senate right now. Just yesterday, Senator Lugar introduced a bill that, while it has some problematic elements, has many strong pieces that could be integrated into a comprehensive bill. I hope Senators use the next few weeks to compile the best components of all the proposals.

But above all else, the comprehensive bill must include a cap on carbon emission–the pollution that most Senators agreed today was a hazard that must be reduced.

21 Responses to Murkowskis Big Oil Bailout Bombs

  1. Wit's End says:

    One way or another, we HAVE to stop burning fuel and switch to clean energy. Reports of crop damage from exposure to toxic greenhouse gases are coming in much earlier this year than last summer. At this rate we are going to have severe food shortages soon, right here in the US of A. Vegetation is the foundation of the ecosystem and the food chain. It is collapsing just as surely as acidifying oceans are destroying life in the sea.

    Here’s the video, it’s finally hit the evening news!

  2. Michael Tucker says:

    I’m very happy the Senate made the right choice!

    I am not surprised by Snowe and Collins. The Republicans have a New Party Order and Snowe and Collins have to go along to get along (and get re-elected).

  3. Not A Lawyer says:

    Another sign of how far right McCain has drifted. During his speech today, he said something to the effect it was a “shame” that the utility industry was backing the push for cap-and-trade legislation.

  4. Imagine where America’d be headed if the GOP (Gulf Oil Polluters) still controlled the House & Senate. Shudder!!!

  5. Bob G. says:

    This is the first hurdle climate legislation needed to pass this summer. It did! This is how legislative victories are won, one step at a time. All those who worked on this vote, especially those who helped get the crucial swing votes from Webb, Byrd, McCaskill and a few other Dems should rejoice. We’ve got a long ways to go, but this a step in the right direction.

  6. Raul says:

    Is that the same Sen. Rockerfeller that heads the energy committee.
    Some one spoke out about him. Maybe the public will learn more
    about how the energy committee operates in the Senate.

  7. dhogaza says:

    Thanks for listing the seven dems front and center, and for nailing collins and snowe as well.

  8. fj2 says:

    Hopefully, this is the turning point, but by no means yet clear, that governance of the United States and the will of the people be based on reality and ultimately the will to act with great determination accordingly.

  9. homunq says:

    Yet another demonstration that you can get 50something good votes in the Senate, but not 60. Start talking about filibuster reform, or the filibuster party has the world by the neck.

  10. homunq says:

    @BobG: Yeah, this is the first hurdle, and we cleared it. But the rest of the hurdles are higher. We won’t clear them unless we lower them.

    Why isn’t Obama speaking out more specifically about filibuster reform? Think of Washington, Lincoln, either Roosevelt, FDR – wouldn’t they? Hell, even Nixon and Bush43 would be talking about it.

  11. Not A Lawyer says:

    @Raul – Rockefeller is chair of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico is chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

  12. prokaryote says:

    Jay Rockefeller has to understand that there are solutions for alternatives to coal. It is irrelevant if his state has a history in coal mining – things change. You need to adapt or you will not survive.

    Coal jobs can be transformed into wind, solar, thermal, energy grid etc – clean jobs. He should dedicate his work to make sure that the transistion to a clean economy is smooth.

  13. Mark says:

    Senator Scott Brown announced his reasons for supporting Murkowski’s “Dirty Air Act”.

    He claims to be protecting restaurant owners and small farmers.

    He also speaks out against Cape Wind in this piece as well, suggesting that electricity from Cape Wind comes at too high a cost.

    He suggests that the extra cost of wind power will be passed on to ratepayers, but then advocates a move to nuclear power without mentioning that the cost of the government’s nuclear subsidies will also be borne by taxpayers.

    He closes by advocating tax cuts for Massachusetts companies as one of the best solutions to our energy problems.

    Climate Progress might consider creating a Wall of Shame and a Hall of Fame to track our politician’s responses to our ongoing climate and energy crisis.

  14. Jim O'Rourke says:

    The Finest U.S. Senators Big oil Money can buy:
    •Evan Bayh IN
    •Mary Landrieu LA
    •Blanche Lincoln AR
    •Ben Nelson NE
    •Mark Pryor AR
    •Jay Rockefeller WV

  15. prokaryote says:

    If anyone wondered yesterday about Murkowsky’s list of texas agriculture and why they supported her.

    Energy Use in the US & Global Agri-Food Systems: Implications for Sustainable Agriculture

    Agriculture is one of many features of modern life that have been drastically altered by the availability of cheap and abundant oil. The American and most other agri-food systems are almost entirely dependent on fossil fuel energy for everything from food production to transportation to food preparation and storage. The structure of industrialized agriculture under a capitalist system, aided and abetted by government policies, including that of the United States, has spurred the expansion of farm specialization and consolidation, monocultures, the delocalization of agricultural production, and the adoption of industrial farming practices

    On small farms across the country, agricultural techniques are being implemented to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

    One study has shown that in the United States, soil is being lost at a rate 10 times faster than it can naturally be replaced (Hough). Fossil fuel fed irrigation is leading to water scarcity as countries overpump their underground aquifers to the point of depletion. Irrigation currently accounts for 70 percent of all water use and 19 percent of farm energy use in the United States (Brown 69). Once groundwater sources are largely depleted, the amount of land available for cultivation will diminish substantially.

    Although the knowledge needed to transition to localized, sustainable agriculture exists, the current structure of power relations and resource control in the United States prevents the widespread move away from fossil fuel based agriculture. Those in positions of power within the United States government and in agribusiness have no interest in altering a system from which they greatly benefit. Without a change in the status quo, however, small local and sustainable producers will have a difficult time competing against the fossil fuel subsidized overproduction of agribusiness which finds its way into our grocery stores.

  16. Zan says:

    Fine reporting and informing, Joe! Good comments, too.

    I’m disappointed in Scott Brown, who very occasionally votes with sort of “a mind of his own”
    and also with Jay Rockefeller- because there IS another Rockefeller scion
    who is extremely environmentally sensitive and active with it.

    But even more disappointing, I agree, are 1) a woman(albeit GOP) proposing a big-oil bailout that blocks vehicular fuel standards-and two other woman voting for it?! Yikes.

  17. Sasparilla says:

    While I wouldn’t say the amendment “bombs” – the word tends to give the idea something failed miserably and basically this amendment narrowly failed by a couple of votes (not the kind of result we were all hoping for, both for the amendment and the chances of the actual bill getting passed), its nice to see this fail.

    Hats off to Robert Byrd (WV), if there was one Senator who I thought would have voted for the amendment, it would have been this long time Senator from WV (where coal is the industry) – wow.

  18. Ben Lieberman says:

    Mark, I’ve posted this elsewhere,but Scott Brown’s claim that he is protecting small farmers and restaurant owners is completely at odds with reality in that these are precisely the groups that the EPA is exempting. Why is he able to get away with such a dishonest op-ed?

  19. Mike says:

    The Senate definitely made the right choice on this on. Money aside, I think everyone can agree that less greenhouse emissions is a good thing. Of course money is never aside and people do need to get from point A to point B. As long as non-renewable forms of energy are bridging the gap to renewable forms, we need to keep standards and regulations to maintain our environment.


  20. prokaryote says:

    Progressive Groups Launch Double Barrel Ad Campaign Over Murkowski Vote

  21. prokaryote says:

    Industry Turning to Legal Action to Stop EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases

    Flurry of weak petitions not expected to succeed in court to block action