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The Audacity of Nope: The GOP obstructs the clean energy bill

How lame are the GOP’s delaying tactics on the climate bill? Even the Washington Post’s editors — no friend of climate action or clean energy — criticized them today in piece titled, “Unhelpful atmosphere,” pointing out that “GOP members want the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to perform a series of modeling runs that would be more extensive than those it has done on similar legislation” and “EPA Associate Administrator David McIntosh said Tuesday that the differences [between the House and Senate bill] wouldn’t even show up in the agency’s computer modeling, leaving little reason to conduct a completely new analysis before committee work commences.” The editorial noted, “Draft texts of Kerry-Boxer have been publicly available since the end of September, and a more complete version has been out for more than a week. The GOP should be ready to offer amendments, particularly after Ms. Boxer extended the deadline for their submission to Tuesday evening…. Ms. Boxer brought Mr. McIntosh into the room Tuesday to answer just such questions. It would have been constructive if GOP committee members had been there to question him.” Guest blogger Noreen Nielson, Director for Energy Communications at Progressive Media, shares some further insight on the GOP’s delaying tactics.

As the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee began meeting for markup yesterday on the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, only one Republican member, Sen. George Voinovich, bothered to show. The boycott, carried out by the six other minority members, suggests they are joining in lockstep with the rest of the Party of NO to block any reform that will help rebuild our economy — from clean energy to health care to financial reform.

During this morning’s meeting, Sen. Voinovich, speaking on behalf of the minority party, said they “sincerely” wanted to work with Democrats to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act. Yet past statements indicate otherwise. (Note: All the below statements were made before the Senate bill was even introduced.)

  • Sen. Inhofe’s prediction for the Senate bill following the passage of Waxman-Markey: “It’s dead in the water.’’ [June 30, 2009]
  • Sen. David Vitter: “I’m predicting “” at least as we speak now “” that we can kill any major climate change legislation on the Senate floor”¦” [July 7, 2009]
  • He continued: “I’m very hopeful we’ll be able to block any major climate change bill like that which came out of the House on the Senate floor.”
  • Sen. Bond: “I think certain people pushing this bill see me as one of the biggest thorns in their sides. If they don’t now, they will.” [September 28, 2009]
  • Sen. Barrasso [and Sen. Inhofe]: “[W]orking together to make sure the Senate doesn’t pass a bill that to me is going to cripple our economy and raise taxes on American families.” [July 15, 2009]

Voinovich then went on to discuss how the inadequate analysis of the Clean Energy Jobs Act was the reason for the blockade — providing nothing more than a straw man excuse. The EPA, the Obama administration and others have consistently said the updated EPA analysis provides an accurate portrait of the Senate bill’s projected impacts.

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According to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s testimony before the Senate Environment Committee, the two bills were so similar that they will likely have the same impact on costs, energy use, and other variables.

“Earlier this year, EPA ran the major provisions of the House clean-energy legislation through several economic computer models. When it comes to the specifications that the models can detect, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act is very similar to the House legislation. Nevertheless, EPA has examined the ways in which the Senate bill is different and determined which of the conclusions reached about the House-passed bill can confidently be said to apply to the Senate bill as well.”

The House-passed bill mentioned above that can “confidently be applied to the Senate bill” received extensive evaluation and scrutiny from a number of government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Congressional Budget Office, and Energy Information Administration. And the Senate Committee held numerous comprehensive legislative hearings on the bill last week which included 54 expert witnesses in nine panels.

Moreover as the EPA’s David McIntosh stressed during today’s meeting, re-running the models every time a bill is amended or tweaked is costly and unnecessary. It costs taxpayers at least $135,000 every time the analysis models are re-run and the models are “not designed to detect fine-grain details,” meaning another analysis right now would result in “vanishingly small” differences from the currently available modeling.

Sen. Boxer said this morning that Sen. Reid has promised a full five week EPA analysis of the final merged bill before floor consideration.

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So the question is: What is the real motivation behind the Republican members blocking clean energy reform? The costs of doing nothing to combat climate change greatly outweigh the costs of acting now. We’re spending $1 billion a day on foreign oil, money that could instead be invested here at home to help create 1.7 million new jobs, increase our security and lessen our pollution.

Perhaps it has something to do with the $3,507,321the seven minority members of the EPW Committee have received from Big Oil, along with millions more from utilities, mining and the national resource sector. This is in addition to the billions Big Oil has spent on lobbying, astroturfing and smear campaigns. Exxon Mobil alone spent $7.2 million on lobbying in the last quarter — more than the total of the entire alternative energy sector.

oil/gasutilitiesminingnat resources sectorInhofe$ 1,223,723$ 437,967$ 197,850$ 2,045,140Alexander$ 400,375 — $ 663,000Voinovich$ 360,329$ 570,726$ 260,799$ 1,000,000Vitter$ 659,635$ 165,665-$ 974,000Barrasso$ 169,250-$ 63,650$ 391,700Crapo$ 247,699$ 278,441-$ 784,136Bond$ 446,310$ 313,165-$ 1,013,063GOP total $ 3,507,321 $ 1,765,964 $ 522,299 $ 6,871,039 *All data accessed today from www.opensecrets.org