Sen. Blanche Lincoln, an opponent of climate and clean energy action, is taking the helm of the key Senate Agriculture Committee. The current chair, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), is leaving his post to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) at the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. As all the Democrats senior to Lincoln currently chair other committees, she is now poised to become the first woman chair of the agriculture committee, where she has jurisdiction over major elements of energy reform and climate policy. In an committee hearing on carbon market regulation today, Lincoln said that she thinks “there are great opportunities here,” but took a sour view of any action this year:
Making sure as we do move forward, that we don’t do so putting a disproportionate burden on our hardworking farm families and our agriculture communities across this country. They do a tremendous job providing food and fiber for the world. While it isn’t necessarily my preference to move on cap-and-trade legislation in the Senate this year, the Senate is going to move on climate change legislation in the future.
Lincoln is violently opposed to the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act, calling the clean energy economic legislation supported by President Obama and passed by the House this June a “complete non-starter”:
The House’s Waxman-Markey bill picks winners and losers and places a disproportionate share of the economic burden on families and businesses in rural America. It is a deeply flawed bill. I will not support similar legislation in the Senate.
Lincoln continually makes the false argument that taking action for clean energy and fighting climate change is more dangerous than the status quo, worrying that the ACES Act “could lead to really high, higher food prices in these economic times.” In reality, global warming has already damaged crop yields, and unchecked warming will devastate them. Unprecedented, multi-year droughts even now are destroying the top agricultural states in the country — California and Texas. Furthermore, the unregulated and fickle oil and coal markets have led to energy price shocks that drove food prices wild. Again, inaction will only make the unsustainable status quo even worse — for Arkansans and all of America.
Lincoln is filbustering America’s future, powered by hundreds of thousands of dollars of polluter cash. This year alone, Lincoln has taken in $156,350 from electric utilities, making her the fourth-most utility-dependent Democrat in the Senate. Worse, among the $163,250 in oil and gas contributions received, Lincoln has taken $10,000 from Koch Industries, the extremist right-wing pollution company behind the Astroturf organizations demonizing Obama and his efforts for energy and health reform.
The U.S. agricultural sector is responsible for 6 to 8 percent of national greenhouse gas emissions, but has the opportunity to sequester at least ten percent of all emissions through afforestation and carbon-friendly crop practices. The Agriculture Committee has jurisdiction over any such agricultural offsets programs — which may have a value of tens of billions of dollars each year — that are managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Much more money is at stake with the broader carbon cap-and-trade market which the American Clean Energy and Security Act would establish — hundreds of billions of dollars a year. The legislation would also add new regulations to the even larger energy derivative markets, restoring accountability and reducing volatility to energy prices. The Agriculture Committee oversees the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which has become the primary regulatory agency for derivatives. In fact, Agriculture Committee members now receive the bulk of their campaign contributions from the financial sector instead of the diminished agriculture sector.