Update: 2011 Sets Record for Most Disasters, GOP Demands Relief Funding Be Offset by Clean Energy Cuts, Then Blinks

This year just set the record for most Federal Emergency Management Agency declared disasters.  And we’ve still got 3 months to go.

It is strictly a coincidence, of course, that most of those disasters are climate related and climate scientists predicted that as we pour more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere we would see more record-smashing extreme events (see “Two seminal Nature papers join growing body of evidence that human emissions fuel extreme weather, flooding that harm humans and the environment“).

And no doubt it is similarly coincidental that the pro-pollution, anti-science extremists who run the House of Representatives are demanding relief efforts for these disasters be offset by cuts in clean energy programs that create jobs and cut emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases that make extreme weather disasters more likely.

I believe Congressional Democrats and the White House should be willing to shut the government down rather than giving in to the GOP masters of disaster.

UPDATE:  TPM reports, “Senate Averts Government Shutdown Threat, Funds FEMA“:  “The threat of a government shutdown, and the possibility that FEMA will run out of money this week, will both be averted, thanks to some clever accounting and the GOP’s lack of will to keep holding disaster relief funds hostage to budget cuts.”  So it looks like the GOP overplayed an inanely weak hand and blinked:

The development represents a setback for Republicans who have been demanding that disaster relief funds be financed with cuts to programs Democrats support. Though the issue never fully came to a head, Republicans could have dragged the fight out longer. They had demanded that $1 billion worth of supplemental FEMA funds be offset by nixing a program to promote the production of hybrid vehicles. That $1 billion turned out not to be necessary — FEMA didn’t need them. But under the terms of the deal, FEMA will still be given over $2 billion in disaster relief funds for the start of fiscal year 2012 — with no offsets. This maintains the spirit of the August debt limit deal, which included allowances for over $10 billion in non-offset emergency funding every year, but it suggests that Republicans didn’t ultimately want to take their demand to its logical conclusion and keep pushing for offsets.

Here’s some more of the story with the Solyndra angle.  As the WashPost reported:

At the heart of the showdown is $1.6 billion in spending cuts to clean-energy programs — a pittance in the scheme of the federal budget. In exchange for $3.65 billion in disaster aid, House Republicans are demanding $1.5 billion in cuts to a fuel-efficiency program and $100 million to the clean-energy loan fund that backed Solyndra. Democrats say that a budget with any disaster aid offsets is dead on arrival in the Senate, which accordingly shot down the House budget this morning….

Boehner has only doubled down on his demand for offsets, adding the $100 million in clean-energy cut on top of the $1.5 billion in offsets that the House GOP first pushed for. It’s peanuts in the scheme of things — the new $100 million cut comes from a $4 billion fund for clean-energy loans — but it was apparently enough to bring over more Republicans to pass his bill, which failed Wednesday without the “Solyndra” cuts.

Of course, “emergency disaster aid isn’t traditionally offset.”  And setting aside the irony of cutting funds that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to fund extreme weather disaster relief, these cuts would cost jobs.

That is the point of a new analysis by CAP’s Daniel J. Weiss and James Barba Nazar, “House Votes ‘No’ on Auto Jobs:  GOP Leaders Continue Attack on Clean Car Jobs Loan Program.”  The analysis concludes:

At a time of high unemployment, these loans to fund clean auto jobs are more important than ever. The first set of ATVM [Alternative Technology Vehicle Manufacturing] loans issued by DOE created 40,000 jobs. This week the Senate will determine whether it is willing to help disaster victims recover from extreme weather while still investing in domestic manufacturing jobs to build clean cars that produce significantly less carbon dioxide pollution linked to extreme weather.

Here are some key findings:

Last week the Center for American Progress revealed that there are 18 pending ATVM loan applications in various stages of the approval process with a total request for $9.8 billion in loans. We identified these pending applications by state, loan request, and the type of project but we did not have more details about these proposals.Since then we were able to tentatively identify 13 of the companies and their locations. For nine of the projects we were able to determine the estimated number of jobs they would generate. These nine projects requested $2.5 billion in loans and would create at least 10,000 jobs.

The nine projects are located in places represented by eight Republicans and two Democrats in the House. All eight Republicans voted for the continuing resolution to slash funds for these loans and auto jobs while both Democrats voted against cutting the loans.

There are six senators from each party that represent the states with these nine projects. All but one of the Republicans voted to cut funding for their home state projects while all the Democrats voted to retain the ATVM loan funds.

pending ATVM loan applications and vote on ATVM funding by local representatives and senators

If enacted, the cut in loan funds makes it extremely unlikely that the Department of Energy will have the funds to approve all 18 pending applications. So, for example, a proposal for an advanced battery project in House Speaker John Boehner’s home state of Ohio by CODA, an automotive company, may not receive funds. CODA applied for a $525 million loan for a plant in Columbus that would employ 1,000 workers. The Columbus Dispatch noted that “the $1.5 billion cut would make it less likely that CODA would be awarded a loan.”

Sam Spofforth, executive director of Clean Fuels Ohio, a nonprofit group based at Ohio State University, lamented that “it would be a pretty big blow.”

It seems clear that the trendline of major disasters in this country is upward for the foreseeable future.  And these disasters aren’t merely increasingly in number, but in ferocity:

It would have been an incredibly bad precedent to allow the anti-science, pro-pollution crowd to insist that disaster relief must be offset by funding for clean energy programs that create jobs and cut heat-trapping greenhouse gases is that make extreme weather disasters more likely.

Kudos to the Dems for calling the GOP’s lame bluff.

h/t Tamino for the top chart.  FEMA’s data is here.

28 Responses to Update: 2011 Sets Record for Most Disasters, GOP Demands Relief Funding Be Offset by Clean Energy Cuts, Then Blinks

  1. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    If the US won’t, China will. This is just one more step to ensuring the US is a minor player in the 22nd century.

    All empires fade, but this is going to be spectacular. The US is not too big to fail, but rather too big to be bailed out.

  2. fj says:

    Runaway climate change and the frequency of extreme events will only get worse.

    Anticipating Irene, Bloomberg was criticized when he closed NYC’s subway system for the first time ever but, ultimately emerged vindicated for his leadership by strongly responding to the moment.

    True leadership and heroics will come from those among us who move this country to mitigate climate change at wartime speed and steadfastly stand firm against those who would have otherwise.

  3. Michael Tucker says:

    Republicans have repeatedly used economic terrorism to get their way because these Republicans think Democrats will always give in…So I agree: “Congressional Democrats and the White House should be willing to shut the government down rather than giving in to the GOP masters of disaster.”

  4. Paul Magnus says:

    All it usually takes is exposure to unusual extreme weather for people to recognize the risks… oh, if only he were the president…

    Peter Shumlin, Vermont Governor, Takes On Climate Change
    Following the extreme weather events slamming Vermont over the past few weeks, the state is saying it’s time for change. And that call for action is coming from the top.

    “We will not join the others in the denial, in the pretend, in the ‘let business happen as usual,’ because our kids and our grandkids mean more to us than our own greed. And we’re going to get off oil and move forward as quickly as we know how,” Shumlin proclaimed.

  5. John Tucker says:

    Since realistically fossil fuel use was at least involved in the causes and extent of these disasters we are spending on, and foreign products are allowed to unfairly compete against US clean energy it amounts to subsidizing coal, oil and gas with penalties on US clean energy and US manufacturing.

  6. Joan Savage says:

    It’s a bittersweet to consider what the newer green technologies look like in communities rebuilding after a disaster.
    Solar panels with marine batteries enough to operate a sump pump or fan seem like they would be handy. However, an electric car costing upward of $40K is an affront to someone who lost an automobile with an insurance value of less than $8k. How much is the clean technology also adaptive technology?

  7. Paul Magnus says:

    an electric car costing upward of $40K is an affront to someone who lost an automobile with an insurance value of less than $8k

    The reality of what oil ment to our modern economy…

  8. Bill Walker says:

    I’d love to see that FEMA graph overlaid with a graph of temperature anomaly.

  9. Sasparilla says:

    It’s good this didn’t roll totally to the GOP’s demand. Goodness gracious I sure hope the Dems can keep the Senate in the 2012 election…

  10. Colorado Bob says:

    Given the new bolder attacks on CNN from the Coal Lobby on the EPA. I despair. They are mixed in this fall, ….. among the many clips of the tall blond, in the oil well elevator.

  11. Colorado Bob says:

    They have begun the roll out to softening, and make fuzzy, .. the cost of the Tar Sands.

  12. Colorado Bob says:

    I saw a report here yesterday about America making it’s oil imports, ….. drop like a rock.

    All because of deep shale oil, (not gas).

    I have seen 2 reports this summer where huge numbers of well service workers are needed.
    In North Dakota, and South Texas.

    This is not a fake, the oil business has been pulling rabbits out of holes since Col. Drake first saw Titusville.

  13. Colorado Bob says:

    There’s the tall blond from the oil well elevator. It’s perfect. They are not “Tar Sands”, they are ” Canadian Oil Sands ” now.

  14. Colorado Bob says:

    I have been thinking about this stuff a long time. I went and looked for oil. As a Texan , it was a cultural thing.
    I told some Canadians in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. That one couldn’t drill a hole in the Earth, unless a token Texan was standing near the hole.
    A bunch of Texans pulled the 20th century out of holes in the ground.

    This drilling of shale , and being able to crack it is huge. Shale deposits are some of the thickest layers ever laid down.

  15. Colorado Bob says:

    We can cut our throats with an ever sharper knife.

  16. Colorado Bob says:

    The Texans invented this sideways drilling over 30 years ago. Shale cracking is the new thing.
    If you go to Texas , way out west near the corner of New Mexico is the Capital Reef.
    A reef from the Permian sticking out of the ground. The oil find out here , funded the University of Texas.

  17. I’m not sure what you are saying here Joan.

    The average price of a new car in USA is $28,400. The Nissan Leaf after rebates is listed at $27,600. So to the consumer it is an “average” priced vehicle. Pretty impressive for such radical new technology with the ability to be zero-emissions. Even better the owner will save thousands of dollars fueling it up over the years.

    The $8k car you talk about is probably a well used car. It seems unfair to say electric cars are too expensive when they haven’t been around long enough to be available as used cars. I’m pretty sure you will see similarly priced used electric cars in a decade once they have been around long enough.

  18. I don’t follow your reasoning here. The price of “oil” to run a car is conveniently not included when the cost of a car is quoted. I know lots of $8k cars that require $20k more to be dumped into them to buy the gas to push them around. That’s a $28k car really. That’s the price of “oil”.

    Where I live, to fuel a Leaf for 100,000 miles would cost about $3k while fuelling a Yaris would cost $13k. The reality of what oil means to our economy is a massive drain of billions of dollars, most of which people don’t even seem to account for when thinking of the price of cars.

  19. Raul M. says:

    Barry, not counting on used cors of the new style of economy car, mostly because the buyers of the Prius etc like them and don’t seem to want to let them go at any low prices. So for those who want to have the advantage of the elec. Car the path seems to be refitting the economy car of yesterday to elec.all for under 8 grand. A high school nearby is doing redo training for the students to learn how easy and technique able such a change over really is.

  20. Raul M. says:

    Is there a difference in repairing a flood damaged car that was gas powered to be gas powered again and repairing a flood damaged car that was gas powered to be an electric powered car? Seems that the used to be gas powered car could make tthe change to elec.

  21. Joan Savage says:

    As you point out it would be a decade.

    That is my point, the clean tech is not looking ready to be all that useful in disaster recovery at present, but that could be just a perception.

    It would be grand if we went big on replacement housing with solar panels and the like. With limited FEMA and SBA funds it is most unlikely.

    It might feel like a very long decade before someone living in a FEMA trailer could hope to buy a used Chevy Volt to get to work.

    Limited range all-electrics look disgusting to someone who has ever had to travel well over a hundred miles to escape a flood.

    Concept cars at the forefront of clean tech usually come with the $40k and up price tags, at least before production.

  22. Joan Savage says:

    I need to own up – I was in a car that had to go over a hundred miles to escape a flood, so my reaction to limited range cars is personal and I shouldn’t generalize to others.

  23. Robert Fanney says:

    These attacks by Republicans are the height of cynicism and short-sightedness. They illustrate their total blindness and lack of regard for America’s future. They would rather sacrifice it for a few more years of profits for their constituents.

  24. John McCormick says:

    Doc Snow, thanks for that great link. Eli’s graph proves the value of Excel and clearly identifies how FEMA disasters are tracking with GISS temp increases. Question…which is leading what…….

  25. Jim says:

    Hurricane Irene was counted 13 times.

  26. Joe Romm says:

    Uhh, why not? It devastated many different places over many days in many different ways. This is presumably standard operating procedure for FEMA.