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:

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.