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Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and House GOP want more polluted air and less clean energy

By Joe Romm on January 25, 2011 at 11:07 am

"Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and House GOP want more polluted air and less clean energy"

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“The fact that no one has really looked at the Clean Air Act in much of a comprehensive way since 1990″”they feel very strongly and we feel very strongly as members that we need to revisit the Clean Air Act….”

“The whole issue is not just jobs and the economy but how competitive we are in the global marketplace. This is a much broader issue than the health of the American people and lungs and emphysema; it’s how can we balance that in the global marketplace for jobs….”

Decidedly not on Whitfield’s agenda: research and development for clean energy and alternative technologies….

I’m not a big fan of a lot of government dollars going into research and development for private enterprises … and you’re not going to see the House of Representatives, I’m certain, provide a lot of money for research and development for electric vehicles.”

That is the wisdom of Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), the “top energy lieutenant” of House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), in an extended interview with National Journal Daily, titled “Whitfield Wants a Long, Hard Look at Clean Air Act” (subs. req’d).

How anyone could think there is a post-partisan consensus for a massive increase in clean energy R&D remains a mystery (see “The Chamber of Commerce is so extreme they oppose research and development into renewable energy!“).  Here’s more from Whitfield, who will be central in pushing the House GOP’s dirty air agenda:

In the coming weeks, as Upton turns his attention toward efforts to gut last year’s health care overhaul, look for Whitfield, who will chair the panel’s Energy and Power Subcommittee, to be at the forefront of a full-throated fight against a slew of major environmental rules and laws.

Whitfield, a climate-science skeptic from a coal state, is a veteran of the House Republican class of 1994. He was encouraged to run for office by his fellow Kentuckian, Mitch McConnell, now the Senate minority leader. Throughout his career, the oil, gas, coal, and utility industries have been among the top contributors to his campaign coffers.

Whitfield is preparing to launch a full-scale attack not just on the EPA’s new climate regulations, which kicked off January 2, but on the very foundations of the 40-year old Clean Air Act””a cornerstone of U.S. environmental law. He intends to frame the landmark law and the new climate rules as attacks on jobs and the economy. And he’s clear about his end goal: to bring that message to the national level, and inject it into the 2012 elections.

In an interview with National Journal Daily, Whitfield laid out his views, plans, and strategy for taking on the Obama administration and the tenets of a clean air law that dates back to the Nixon administration.

“Ever since I’ve been in Congress, various groups on the business side, those entities that are creating jobs out there, have felt that the Clean Air Act is really””that there are all sorts of presumptions in favor of the environmentalists. The fact that no one has really looked at the Clean Air Act in much of a comprehensive way since 1990″”they feel very strongly and we feel very strongly as members that we need to revisit the Clean Air Act,” he said.

The Clean Air Act, passed in 1970, was the first national law to control pollutants that endanger human health, such as lead, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury. It was amended in 1990 to control the acid-rain causing pollutants spewed by coal-fired power plants. In 2009, the EPA determined that the carbon dioxide emitted by power plants, tailpipes, factories, and thousands of other entities, contributing to global warming, is also a pollutant that endangers human health.

Of course, Whitfield is painfully unaware that by “2020 the benefits of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments will exceed the costs of compliance by a factor of 30 to 1” and that “For EPA regulations, benefits consistently exceed costs.”

Whitfield said that one of his specific targets in the clean air law is a tenet””cherished by environmentalists””called New Source Review. Under the law, new polluting entities, such as coal-fired power plants, oil refineries, or manufacturers, must receive a permit before building a polluting source. In order to receive the permit, they must show that they will use the best-available technology to reduce their pollution.

Whitfield said he expects to hammer home the idea that the clean air rules are hampering the economy.

“The whole issue is not just jobs and the economy but how competitive we are in the global marketplace. This is a much broader issue than the health of the American people and lungs and emphysema; it’s how can we balance that in the global marketplace for jobs.

Another issue that he sees as ripe for elevation to national debate: the rise of oil and gasoline prices””already projected to approach the record highs of 2008″”and the return of a “drill, baby, drill” push for offshore drilling.

Decidedly not on Whitfield’s agenda: research and development for clean energy and alternative technologies, such as electric vehicles or carbon capture and sequestration for coal plants.

“I’m not a big fan of a lot of government dollars going into research and development for private enterprises. There’s private research being done for carbon capture and sequestration”¦ and you’re not going to see the House of Representatives, I’m certain, provide a lot of money for research and development for electric vehicles.

“I don’t believe that the electric cars are going to play a major role in this for a while. They may be good for driving around in urban areas but they’re not at a place where people will drive them for long trips. We’re going to be looking at other ways to solve these problems. I think it’s going to be very difficult to reduce our consumption of oil.”

Talk about your self-fulfilling prophecy:  If you block investments in R&D or electric cars or efficiency or alternative energy, then it will be very difficult to reduce oil consumption, which is something Republicans know intuitively (see Darrell Issa (R-CA) slams ‘failed’ GOP energy policy).

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28 Responses to Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and House GOP want more polluted air and less clean energy

  1. Wes Rolley says:

    Joe,
    In these times, the EPA is the only tool we have. That is why I was very troubled to see internet rumors spreading that Lisa Jackson will follow Browner in leaving the administration. Were that to happen, it may be all over.

  2. Pythagoras says:

    Climate Hawks should welcome the review. US electricity rates are among the lowest in the world. It is not the cost of energy that is keeping the US from being competitive. (I’d argue a lack of industrial policy…but that argument won’t be going anywhere with either Upton or Whitfield.)

    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7215

  3. Tim Kelly says:

    This “gentelman” seems unaware of Better Place and its battery-switching technology. Potentially, their technology would make the electric car viable for long trips, given the infrastucture were constructed. The fact that Mitt Romney has already paid Better Place Israel a visit indicates that they have something folks need to pay attention to.

  4. Andy says:

    Again the myth that the courts and EPA changed the clean air act in 2007 or 2009 to include greenhouse gases.

    These gases were added as pollutants in the 1990 amendment; to say that this is a recent addition is wrong. Al Gore and the others that inserted it could see the future. His republican and democratic foes assumed Sen. Gore was full of it and so let it stay in the bill. They were short sighted then and are short sighted now.

  5. Barry says:

    I think the article misquoted Whitfield at the end when he said: “I think it is going to be very difficult to reduce our consumption of oil.”

    Reading the rest of his comments makes me think he must have meant to end with: “I want it to be very difficult to reduce our consumption of oil.”

    Yet another “America Can’t Do It” republican.

  6. Nell says:

    The word pollution seems so tame… when what we are doing is poisoning the planet and everything on it.

    There are many substances that, when taken in appropriate doses are good for you, but when taken in too large a dose will kill you.

    CO2 is one of them.

  7. Mike Roddy says:

    A lot of us are getting tired of our once great country being either controlled or forestalled by shameless and ignorant whores. The protest against the Kochs in Rancho Mirage this weekend is going to be big. Maybe we’ll build some momentum.

  8. Barry says:

    OT: Joe, have you seen the study by Canadian researchers showing massive coal burning helped drive End Permian extinction?

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/science/erupting-volcanoes-could-have-caused-earths-first-major-extinction-researchers/article1880351/

    Here are some quotes: We found layers of coal ash … exactly like that produced by modern coal-burning power plants … providing the first direct evidence that there was a significant coal combustion going on at the time of extinction … The impact of the volcanic eruption was so severe that it eliminated all “higher life” over a period of 200,000 years … Up to 95 per cent of all marine species and 70 per cent of land vertebrates became extinct during this Permian-Triassic period. The Great Dying also caused the only known mass extinction of insects.

    Gotta love those “America needs to burn coal” republicans. What could go wrong?

  9. Cinnamon Girl says:

    Every time one of these fossils (especially if they’re from a farm state) goes off on costs and energy, someone should ask him/her this: “So, Congressman/woman, do you plan to work to end the several billion dollar subsidy for ethanol?” Then, all can see whether he/she is a mouse, or a louse, and precisely how large a hypocrite he/she actually is.

  10. Bob Potter says:

    To see what the EPA-gutting bill says click on http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill and enter in HR 97 Free Industry Act. Prepare to get sick. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and currently has 107 co-sponsors, 106 of them Democrats. You can see if your Representative is one of them. Mine is and there has been no local media coverage of this….here in the NorthEast. I and others are contacting his office, and will bring this to daylight with letters to the editor. Please do the same if your Representative is listed. They need to know that people are paying attention.

  11. Rob C. says:

    The Republican Party: the best political party a fossil fuel lobby can buy. These fake patriots, these sycophants, these corrupt, venal, sniveling puppets of plutocrats expose their true loyalties with every passing day they spend blocking American economic progress for their plutocrat paymasters.

    I’d call them worms but that would be a disservice to perfectly useful organisms that make positive contributions to life on Earth.

  12. Bob Potter says:

    I just clicked on the govtrack website on my post #8 above and received an error message, although I believe the address is correct. If you have the same problem you can use Google to find this bill by entering: Congress HR 97 Free Industry Act.

  13. Bob Potter says:

    Big Oooops! Back to my post #8. That should be 106 of the co-sponsors are Republicans. How could I??? Sorry.

  14. Sasparilla says:

    Good article Joe – so sad to see the Republicans living down to our expectations (I fully expect them to declare and wage war on all things considered “green”). I shudder to think what will happen to Wind Energy support (and as a consequence future installations).

    Publicly calling out and targeting EV R & D is truly amazing considering where we with Oil as a country – the gall is unbelievable. And when gasoline is back above $3 a gallon in the winter in the worst recession since the depression. Go for it Ed, you and the GOP run with this, I want you to. :-)

    What this lackey doesn’t get is that most Americans want EV vehicles to move forward (even if they don’t intend to buy one) since they inherently know they’ll help get us off oil (whether for conservative or liberal reasons, and there are both, people want that). Publicly declaring war on them now could and probably will seriously backfire for the GOP in time.

    Having had these 2 years of Federal R & D money for EV and battery development has been a blessing (we should have had it all along) and if that’s all we get so be it.

    To Ed Whitfield and the rest of the GOP oil / coal party:

    Its too late now, the rabbit is out of the bag and the most you can do is delay things a little and suffer serious political consequences for it. Take the money away and it will only slightly slow things down. Because of the public money juicing things over the last couple of years (and the price of oil that will go up in the future) the revolution has started and won’t be turned back.

    Normal citizens are driving Leaf’s and Volt’s right now (that they own) and GM just announced they want to move Volt production from 45,000 per year for 2012 to 120,000 (although I have a feeling they’ll be constrained by battery production) because demand has been so unbelievable. Nissan was looking for over 200,000 Leaf’s in 2012 if memory serves as well. People will start driving Ford’s Focus EV’s by the end of this year. On the EV front, the war to keep them from happening is over – the GOP has lost.

    At least we have this small win (that EV’s are finally here to stay and citizens can buy them) over the last couple of years.

  15. dbmetzger says:

    Speaking of clean air here’s something China is about to do.
    China to Enact Anti-Dumping Measures
    China’s Ministry of Commerce has decided to put on anti-dumping measures on caprolactam imports from the European Union and the United States. Caprolactam is a precursor to Nylon 6. It’s a widely used as synthetic polymer. http://www.newslook.com/videos/285955-china-to-enact-anti-dumping-measures?autoplay=true

  16. Theodore says:

    The main reason America cannot compete with other countries in the global manufactuing marketplace is not high energy costs, but high wages. We have a tradition of wages going up and never going down. We priced ourselves out of the industrial labor market when we agreed to free trade with low-wage countries. Despite the downward pressure on wages that free trade provides, American businesses will move elsewhere or go out of business completely or accept continuously diminishing market share, but will not lower wages significantly. Creating a new tradition of lower wage expectations is the only way to compete. Deindustrialization is the only alternative. It seems to be the option America is ready to accept. Personal prosperity depends on personal income. National prosperity depends on full employment. Lower personal incomes are the key to retention and expansion of manufacturing jobs and full employment. The up side to all this is that we get inexpensive goods from elsewhere, which has the effect of increasing our buying power. We seem to accept this increased buying power without accepting the downside of free trade, which is lower wages. This is the root cause of our deindustrialzation problem.

  17. Drew M. says:

    It should be a law that any politician who receives money from the oil, coal or gas industry should have to spend two weeks a year, with their family, in Texas City.

  18. Michael Tucker says:

    “If you block investments in R&D or electric cars or efficiency or alternative energy, then it will be very difficult to reduce oil consumption, which is something Republicans know intuitively…”

    They ALSO know where the majority of the oil will come from and it won’t be domestic production. But they will sell America’s future to the devil for short term profits for US oil companies. When will Americans wake-up?

  19. Mimikatz says:

    If Lisa Jackson quits, Obama should propose Arnold Schwarzenegger for EPA. He’s the only person who can make climate hawkery seem masculine. Only wimps can’t face climate change! (I’m serious–he does understand the issues.)

    The ultimate argument to trump the short-run economic arguments the deniers make is that no one should be allowed to operate a business in a way that threatens the integrity of the system as a whole. If there is anything we should have learned from the finincial crisis it is that. Prolonged emission of CO2 threatens the integrity of the whole biosystem in which we live. It threatens to bring down civilization if left unchecked. That cataclysm trumps the (false in any event) short-term argument about jobs.

    Unless we are just willing to write off millions of people and whole future generations.

  20. Mimikatz says:

    Au contraire, Theodore. We are non-competitive because in other countries the gov’t takes care of health care, not employers. And the compensation packages for the top executives in the US are far and away higher than in other industrialized countries. We now have a parasitic management class who favors keeping wages low, gutting the safety net and ensnaring workers in debt so they will remain compliant.

    We need better education and better pay for workers, not lower wages. We also need to substantially raise the top tax rates if they have to have all that compensation to boost their egos.

  21. paulm says:

    Were on the brink of chaos…

    Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed “retribution is inevitable” for the suicide bombing that killed 35 people at Russia’s busiest airport, while President Dmitry Medvedev demanded robust checks at all transport hubs and lashed out at the airport for lax security.

  22. Theodore says:

    reply to Mimikatz #22

    Employer provided health benefits are a bad idea for a lot of reasons, which I will not explain at this time.

    You are doing what most people do when confronted with the economic reality that I presented. You immediately confuse the issue with the issue of economic justice. The whole world needs “better education and better pay for workers”, but when we agree to free trade (an unwise choice in my view) we also import the harsh reality of world poverty. Refusing to acknowledge that reality is worthy of the proverbial ostrich with a head in the sand.

    American wages will fall to world levels with or without deindustrialization. If we continue to refuse to accept lower wages, our labor will continue to be unmarketable. If we accept lower wages we can retain at least some of what we have left of our industries. If we continue on with our present course of deindustrialization, it’s only a matter of time till our economic condition will be comparable to the present condition of Haiti or Bangladesh.

    Do not believe that Americans can do anything that others cannot do. We are not unique or special. We do not have secret skills or methods. World wages will rise to meet American wages, and American wages will decline to meet world wages. So long as we remain committed to free trade, this trend is inescapable.

  23. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Theodore #17 and #24 presents the market fundamentalist dogma that you ‘incentivise’ the rabble by lowering their wages (just as you incentivise the rich by increasing their wealth yet further) in pretty stark terms. Seeing as US median wages have remained stagnant since the 1970s and are now actually falling, while unemployment in real terms is around 16%, he seems to have missed the boat. US unemployment will be left deliberately high to put further downward pressure on workers’ pay and conditions, a real triumph of ‘really existing market capitalism’. This is a process that was commented on, approvingly, of course, by that wise fellow Alan Greenspan, a few years back.
    The years of the Rightwing reaction since the 1970s have seen a huge shift in wealth in the US from the rabble to the top few per cent of the wealth distribution. Similar redistributions have occured in other capitalist economies, to greater or lesser degree. The process is currently being turbo-charged in the UK, Ireland, Greece, Latvia etc, with the GFC as the excuse for more one-sided class war.The serfs in the USA compensated for this immiseration (Karl Marx, where are you when we need you) by sending additional family members into the workforce, taking several jobs and going into gigantic debt. The parasite class responded with union-busting, lower wages (your huge working poor population is the envy of parasites elsewhere)and off-shoring to slave wage regimes. This massive wealth transfer to the parasites was not used for investment in productive enterprise, because the return on capital there, falling for decades as Marx foresaw, was too little for their hypertrophied greed. Much more lucrative was financial speculation, ie gambling, and the blowing up of asset bubbles, plus the attendant graft, fraud, malfeasance and all round kleptomania. The arrival of computers allowed the growth of innovative forms of fraud like derivatives, once passed off as a form of insurance, now a huge time-bomb that will detonate one day.
    The root cause of the slow implosion of Western capitalism is one-sided class war, the transfer of trillions to the parasite class and their lust for bigger returns on capital achieved through financial gambling. The latest anti-human manifestation is the current surge in commodities, which will starve millions, as speculators use the trillions created out of thin air by Helicopter Ben Bernanke to speculate on food, utterly unconcerned that their gargantuan greed condemns others to suffering and malnutrition. And I assume Theodore will be the first to take a pay cut to Bangladeshi levels to do his bit for the rich.

  24. adelady says:

    Theodore this is not just a USA problem. EU countries, Australia, Canada all have to make decisions based on the existence of cheap wages elsewhere.

    We can engage in a race to the bottom. Or we can do what we do well. Switzerland certainly had an overt policy for a long time of concentrating on a highly trained, highly paid workforce, specifically and deliberately staying out of areas where others could produce more cheaply.

    America’s problem is not so much of too high wages. If the workers were producing highly desirable products those wages could be paid. It’s bad managements insisting on building fancier buggy whips who’ve reduced American industry from its former pre-eminence.

    Innovation and leading the field are the ways to ensure your own citizens and the rest of the world are willing to buy what you produce.

  25. Theodore says:

    reply to mulga #25

    I’m not advocating this situation, just reporting it.

    Here’s what I advocate on the economic justice issue: (1) complete separation of business income from personal income (2) a guaranteed minimum income (3) a maximum possible personal income and (4) a legally defined ratio between the guaranteed minimum income and the maximum possible personal income.

    There are two possible ways to deal with downward pressure on wages (1) the graceful way and (2) the awkward and difficult way. The graceful way is to lower wages systematically in response to declining market share, thus eliminating the need for any layoffs or plant closures. The awkward way is to wait until the factories are closed, we have been living on credit for years and are forced to take a new job at lower pay in the new Chinese-owned factory just down the street from the old one. This second option is what we are actually doing. I’m just recommending the first option. With free trade there is no third option, no matter how you feel about class struggle.

  26. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    theodore #27, sorry for misinterpreting you. I thought your exposition a little ambivalent and assumed that it was ‘soft advocacy’. I see now what you were getting at, and I concur. I am in total agreement with your four points, also. Free trade is certainly the race to the bottom, to the advantage of the money power, but our masters stoop to any lie to push it, through their propaganda stooges. ‘Competitive advantage’, that market fundamentalist dogma, always boils down to absolute comparative advantage in terms of wages and the propensity to hyper-exploit the natural world as well. Some degree of autarky is beneficial, I believe, then free trade to mutual benefit. Free movement of people is more problematic of course-would that there were only one billion of us. And free movement of capital is, in my opinion, almost always disastrous.