Jim Webb dead wrong on global warming pollution

Guest blogger Lowell Feld is editor of Blue Virginia, in a WonkRoom cross-post.

This week, Sen. Jim Webb’s office put out a press release (see the full release at Blue Virginia) calling for a vote on the “Rockefeller Amendment to Delay EPA Greenhouse Gas Regulations.” Needless to say, I strongly disagree with Jim Webb that any delay in taking aggressive, comprehensive action on clean energy and climate change makes any sense whatsoever. There are three main reasons we need to act immediately, not delay a minute longer:

One: The scientific evidence of dangerous, man-made climate change is crystal clear and voluminous, as is the overwhelming consensus among climate scientists that we need to act urgently – as in, this is a planetary environmental emergency – to slash greenhouse gas emissions now;

Two: Our national security depends heavily on a rapid move off of our oil addiction, which means first and foremost transitioning the U.S. vehicle fleet to far higher efficiency, and also to clean-energy-generated electricity;

Three: Our economic future will be determined in large part on how rapidly we transition off of 19th and 20th century fuels (mainly coal and oil) and into 21st century energy sources (efficiency, wind, solar, wave, geothermal, next-generation biofuels).

Frankly, none of that should be remotely controversial. The vast majority of people who aren’t in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry – or snookered by the constant barrage of Big Lie propaganda that industry puts out “” see the Chevron “Human Energy” campaign or “Energy Tomorrow” for a constant stream of lies, half-truths, and distortions “” would almost certainly agree with those three points. I know Sen. Mark Warner gets it, because I’ve sat down and discussed these issues with him. As for Jim Webb? Sadly “” and it truly is sad for me, as someone who led the “Draft James Webb” effort and who worked for his campaign “” it doesn’t seem that he has much if any understanding – or even curiosity to learn – about energy and environmental issues. Yesterday, he actually said the following words:

I am not convinced the Clean Air Act was ever intended to regulate or classify as a dangerous pollutant something as basic and ubiquitous in our atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

That’s bad enough. But for now I just want to focus on a truly egregious distortion and piece of revisionist history from Webb’s press release. According to Sen. Webb, the “sweeping actions that the EPA proposes to undertake clearly overflow the appropriate regulatory banks established by Congress, with the potential to affect every aspect of the American economy.” Webb believes that “[s]uch action represents a significant overreach by the Executive branch.”

That’s so many kinds of wrong it’s hard to know where to start. Just a few points. First off, the EPA’s establishment (by President Nixon) was approved by Congress, back in 1970. Second, the Clean Air Act was passed by Congress, extended multiple times by Congress, revised many times by Congress, etc. Third, the U.S. Supreme Court clearly ruled in 2007 that the EPA “can avoid taking further action [on global warming] only if it determines that greenhouse gases do not contribute to climate change or if it provides some reasonable explanation.” Finally, the U.S. Senate has utterly failed in its duty to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, per the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, the overwhelming scientific evidence, etc. In 2009, recall that the U.S. House of Representatives passed a comprehensive, clean energy and climate law.

The U.S. Senate, of which Jim Webb was and is a part, then did what it usually does – nothing. Clearly, that is where the failure lies, in the U.S. Senate, not with the Executive Branch “” or the Judicial Branch, for that matter. Frankly, at this point, the U.S. Senate has made it abundantly clear that it has zero ability to tackle this issue.

So, here’s my message to Sen. Webb and to the rest of his “scorpions in a bottle” “” as he calls them “” in the Senate: on clean energy and climate change, either lead, follow, or get the heck out of the way!

— Lowell Feld, cross-posted from Blue Virginia, where Webb’s anti-EPA press release can be read.

12 Responses to Jim Webb dead wrong on global warming pollution

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    Blue Dogs like Webb seem to think that they can throw bones to the oil companies here, since polls indicate it won’t cost them politically. I suspect Webb has some idea what is going on, due to his intelligence and military connections.

    Webb has said brave things on other issues. He’s a Senator who could be awakened, given a proper presentation.

  2. Lowell,

    You’re spot on about Webb!!

  3. Mimikatz says:

    Webb doesn’t need to do this. Thankfully he is retiring. He was a major disappointment. Tim Kaine, former Gov, is being encouraged to run for his seat. Is he any better? He seems to be an Obama man through and through. The willfulful blindness of these people who should know better is staggering and dispiriting.

  4. Josh says:

    I would add that EPA’s GHG regulations are being written and finalized through the public “notice and comment” process established by Congress in the Administrative Procedure Act. There is absolutely no abuse of executive power going on.

  5. Jay Alt says:

    People have waited 20 years for officials with the nerve to enforce the CleanAirAct Amendments of 1990, passed with the help of Eastern GOP senators & signed by GHW Bush. We were forced to wait for the Reagan Administration to leave for that to happen. The EPA is finally acting to solve problems that were identifed back in the mid-80s. So get on with it!

  6. Bob Doublin says:

    Looks like another Obama betrayal is in the works

    If this is what Dems are considering going along with, we’re in deep trouble.

    [JR: That story didn’t sound right (which is why I didn’t report it) and all of the parties involved including the White House have now said it is untrue. Only time will tell, but it seems implausible.]

  7. Bob G says:

    On the EPA issue: The Sierra Club says that the Obama administration is considering a deal to give up EPA Clean Air Act safeguards in order to get a budget passed by the House Republicans. This strikes me as huge and horrendous news if true. Can someone at Climate Progress post on this issue? I see Joe’s “only time will tell” quote above, but if people need to mobilize to prevent this, then we need more information. Here’s the Sierra Club e-mail:

    Tell the President that any deals to weaken our EPA clean air protections are unacceptable.

    Right now, the Obama Administration is considering a deal with Republicans to give up key EPA pollution safeguards in order to gain cooperation on passing a government funding bill.

    The President must not sacrifice the health of our children and communities. He must not succumb to Big Oil and Coal and their cronies in Congress.

    Email President Obama and tell him you’re outraged that he’d even consider putting the EPA and our health protections on the chopping block.

    Let’s be clear: polluters refuse to be held accountable for the damage they do to our families and our communities. They’ve bought themselves a Republican Congress and are using it to obliterate the laws passed to protect our health from their pollution.

    The EPA pollution safeguards they seek to destroy have avoided 160,000 cases of premature death, 130,000 heart attacks and 1.7 million asthma attacks in 2010 alone1.

    And what’s even more outrageous is that these EPA protections have nothing to do with the federal budget process. It’s ridiculous that these riders to the budget would even be considered. This is Washington D.C. politics at its worst.

    The President needs to take a stand and tell Republicans that polluter profits will not trump the health of our communities.

    Tell the President to reject any deals with Republicans that weaken our EPA clean air protections.

    We expect better. We deserve better. Tell the President to fight back against polluting industries that would sacrifice our health for their profits.

    Sarah Hodgdon
    Sierra Club Conservation Director

  8. Jeandetaca says:

    Jim webb is clearly awfull about global warming. What a disapointment knowing his brave stands on other topics.

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    When one contemplates the disgrace, the idiocy, the betrayal of rationality and the infinite hurt and harm done our children by the political pathocrats of the great Anglosphere ‘democracies’, I cannot help reaching what I think is an obvious conclusion. And that is that ‘democracy’, always a dodgy concept outside a community of a few hundred, is, when married to a capitalist economy, rendered not just null and void, but the very antithesis of its purported premises.
    In a capitalist economy in reality money rules. You have the outright corruption that often is exposed, but far more often goes undetected, especially by a complicit MSM where ‘rocking the boat’ is ever more a poor career choice. Then you have the marginally more subtle corruption of political ‘contributions’, and media campaigns in favour of some elite pre-occupation, invariably linked to profit maximisation, capital accumulation and the marginalising and vilification of all those not ‘on message’. And, of course, ‘good’ politicians are well looked after in retirement, to encourage the next generation.
    Capitalist politics is also, as we can see, a lowest common denominator sport. Although many in the monied elites can see not just that ecological ruin is upon us, but that avoiding, mitigating and remediating that calamity could be extremely profitable, the concerted fanaticism of the fossil-fuel industry interests has derailed all action, and set back the level of discourse to that of the playground in a school for unruly children (if they’ll forgive me comparing them to denialists). Meanwhile the struggle seems, increasingly, to depend on just what China manages to accomplish, as it is streaking ahead. Not to undervalue the contribution of other countries where rationality rules.
    China has the advantage of a political caste where corruption by money power is frowned on, not relied on. Those wishing to engage in politics join the party of power and rise according to their merits. It’s not unlike the US system where advancement depends on the approval of the moneyed ruling class or even Iran where you have to satisfy the theocratic ‘higher authorities’ before peddling your wares to the public. The audience in China is that of your peers, and, consequently, they are ruled by technocrats, engineers, scientists and the like, who can at least understand the laws of physics and are not convinced that the universe was created in 4004 BCE.
    I’m certain that, in the fullness of time and given the presently unlikely event that humanity survives, we can create a system of real democracy, which must include economic democracy, as well as political. One based on my favourite Marxist dictum-‘From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs’. Of the famous troika ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’ the currently ruling global elite only recognises ‘Liberty’ and then only in the narrow confines of the liberty to exploit or be exploited. To survive the looming inferno we simply cannot proceed with inherently corrupt and damaging political and social structures.

  10. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Great stuff Mulga. Incidentally, an alternative to representative democracy, a genuinely participative democracy without all the flaws of rep. dem. that we see being played out today, has been worked out by Fred Emery. You can find several of his original papers in Part III of ‘Participative Design for Participative Democracy’, 1993, CCE, ANU, edited by yours truly. I am hoping to have a revised version of it up on thelightonthehill site soon.

    He also wrote ‘Toward Real Democracy’, published by the Ontario Quality of Working Life Centre, 1989, ME

  11. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Thank-you for the source, Merrelyn. I’ll have a peruse. We must start at the root of the problem, like proper ‘radicals’, and the root is the idiocy and fraudulence of our governance. Remind me, when were any of us asked for our acquiescence with the system? Does some shadowy bureaucrat visit the maternity words, whisper the necessary question into our ears, and takes stupefaction or a tirade of screaming as assent?

  12. PeterM says:

    Webb jions a cadre of other public officials, from local, state and on up to the Federal level, that remains ignorant to the science.

    Example; spoke to ly local state representative yesterday here in Connecticut- I discusssed many issues- then brought up the rising C02 levels in the atmosphere. I asked here what this would cause? She responded with ‘more pollution’. This lady calls herself a moderate Democrat. In any case I just replied’ ‘more warming’- and then changed the subject.

    The media of course is equally guilty in not reporting the truth. The concept of a’Free Press’ and media in this country today is a joke.

    Also speaking to an aide of Gevernors Malloy’s office the other Day (D- CT)we discussed the envirionment- he told me that we live in A ‘Democracy’- I said to him you mean a ‘Plutocracy’….. enough said.