Lowell Feld: Jim Webb Dead Wrong On Global Warming Pollution

Our guest blogger is Lowell Feld, the editor of Blue Virginia.

Yesterday afternoon, 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.

Watch it:

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!

Cross-posted from Blue Virginia, where Webb’s anti-EPA press release can be read.