The challenge for progressive climate activists, now that the Waxman-Markey clean energy act has been approved by the energy committee, is to turn the central flaw of the political process shaping the legislation into a strength.
The Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy Security Act has been corrupted with weakened targets and incredibly large bailouts of the fossil fuel industry, because of the overwhelming influence of polluting corporations on the political process. As Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) explained during the markup on Wednesday, the history of US policy is to give “huge subsidies” to the coal and nuclear industry, and this bill is no exception:
So in talking about socialism, if, if you look at what the nuclear industry has received from this committee, what the coal industry in terms of subsidies has received from this committee, oil industry received in benefits from this committee, it so dwarfs the benefits that we have or even remotely intend to provide for these nascent renewable energy sources. The truth is, this entire bill is a clean energy bill. We have in huge subsidies for clean coal. Huge. Much more than we have in for renewables. . . .
But, please understand that it is a balanced bill. Nuclear, coal, oil, gas, all of these renewables, all part of the mix, including new hydro. Okay. All of it. And I just beg you to give these new renewable energy technologies a chance to play their role as well.
The policymakers in Washington have been barraged by corporate polluters, from the right-wing fossil fuel extremists — Koch, Peabody, Massey, Exxon, Southern Co. — to the centrist right — BP, Duke Energy, Caterpillar, Dupont — to the capitalist internationals — GE, Shell, Nike. The corporations are expressing their interests through dozens of front groups and PR firms, decades of campaign contributions to key members, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of ads, and thousands of lobbyists.
Not surprisingly, the four Democrats who voted against passage of the weakened Waxman-Markey legislation — Charlie Melancon (D-LA), Barrow (D-GA), Jim Matheson (D-UT), and Mike Ross (D-AR) — are high on the polluter cash rolls. In fact, all but Ross have received over $400K in pollution contributions.
|Carbon-sector contributions to members of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce. Click to enlarge (PDF).|
However, this raw expression of corporate political power is also their weakness. The effort to pass clean energy reform tells a compelling story about how corporations shape our nation’s politics. The stakes are so high that corporations are taking a much, much more active role than they usually do, so they’re highly exposed. They’re fighting with their trade groups and their lapdog politicians. It’s time for activists to get the message out that if people don’t get involved, it will be up to corporations to determine our clean energy destiny, for good or evil.
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