Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Obama said that we should make climate action a "prerequisite for our vote." But do Dems get that?

During his climate speech last Tuesday, Barack Obama affirmed the importance of climate change as an election issue:
“Remind everyone who represents you, at every level of government, that there is no contradiction between a sound environment and a strong economy — and that sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote.”
Let's look at the 2014 Senate elections in that context.

I've listed all of the Senate Democrats who will be running in the 2014 election with their lifetime League of Conservation Voters score:

Mark Begich (D-AK): 77%
Mark Pryor (D-AR): 64%
Mark Udall (D-CO): 97%
Chris Coons (D-DE): 96%
Brian Schatz (D-HI): No record yet.  Schatz, however, has been working with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse on carbon pricing legislation.
Dick Durbin (D-IL): 85%
Mary Landrieu (D-LA): 49%
Ed Markey (D-MA): 94%
Al Franken (D-MN): 92%
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH): 93%
Tom Udall (D-NM): 96%
Kay Hagan (D-NC): 84%
Jeff Merkley (D-OR): 100%
Jack Reed (D-RI): 96%
Mark Warner (D-VA): 93%

Of these 15 senators, six voted for the Keystone XL pipeline during the budget "vote-a-rama" back in March: Begich, Coons, Hagan, Landrieu, Pryor, and Warner.

Four of them voted against pricing carbon during the vote-a-rama as well: Hagan, Landrieu, Pryor, and Warner.

Two of them voted for Inhofe's amendment to prohibit further greenhouse gas regulations for the purposes of addressing climate change: Mary Landrieu and Mark Pryor--our biggest climate culprits in the Senate. The 47 senators who voted for that amendment----every Republican except Susan Collins and then Landrieu, Manchin, and Pryor--simply do not care about climate change.  This reminds me of the quote "Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe."  You might say that you acknowledge the threat of climate change, but if you vote to prohibit the regulation of greenhouse gases for the purpose of addressing climate change, I'll call BS.

In other words, we can safely count on nine of these Democrats to support climate action: Mark Udall (D-CO), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Al Franken (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Jack Reed (D-RI).  Markey doesn't have a record yet in the Senate, but we know he's been one of the most outspoken champions of climate action in the House.

Despite his bad vote on Keystone, Chris Coons still has a fairly strong environmental record and would likely support climate action. He actually voted against Keystone in the past, so his switch now seemed strange to me.  Back in May, along with Sen. Carper and Rep. Carney, he announced a total of $20 million in National Science Foundation funding for Delaware colleges and universities to invest in climate change research.  This past Earth Day, he spoke on the Senate floor about the impact of climate change on the state of Delaware, and last week, he issued a favorable statement on Obama's climate speech.  I've excerpted part of that press release below:
“The science of climate change is real and deserves to be taken seriously. It is happening right now, and it will have significant and substantial implications for our country and our planet. Continued ignorance of the impacts of climate change only dooms future generations to environmental and economic consequences unlike any that humanity has faced before. The impacts of climate change are already being felt in communities around the country, including many in Delaware still recovering from the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy.
“President Obama today laid out a strategy that wisely confronts both sides of the climate change equation: mitigation and adaptation.

“If we are to slow the impacts of climate change on our communities, we have to reduce the level of damaging carbon emissions that we are pumping into the atmosphere. The President’s plan sets ambitious goals for carbon reductions and offers a diverse strategy for meeting them. As a Congressional Vice Chair of the Alliance to Save Energy, I applaud the President’s inclusion of new energy-efficiency standards in that strategy. As a first step, Congress can support this effort by also passing the voluntary, consensus-based policies in the Energy Savings and Industrial Competiveness Act — better known as ‘Shaheen-Portman’ — of which I am a cosponsor, and the bipartisan Weatherization Enhancement, and Local Energy Efficiency Investment and Accountability Act, which I introduced with Senators Collins and Reed last week.
Mark Begich's record is a bit mixed because of his pro-oil record. Although that challenges his credibility on climate change, he does acknowledge the seriousness of the problem (albeit unfortunately not enough to oppose the expansion of drilling).  Four years ago, he hosted Barbara Boxer, Bernie Sanders, Debbie Stabenow, and Frank Lautenberg for a tour to see first-hand the impacts of climate change on Alaska as well as new energy technology used by the state.   The press release from his office at the time spoke of his efforts to address the impacts of climate change:
Sen. Begich recently introduced a package of seven bills dealing with the impacts of climate change in America's Arctic - Alaska. The legislation, named the Inuvikput package after the Inupiaq word for "the place where we live," is designed to address the results of melting ice in the Arctic which is opening waterways to shipping and tourism, affecting the health of Arctic residents and potentially making Arctic natural resources more accessible for development.
He knows it's a problem and is willing to support the regulation of greenhouse gases and even carbon pricing, but not the downsizing of one of his state's largest industries.

Despite the bad votes he has cast recently, Mark Warner has shown support for climate action in the past.  For instance, in 2008, along with Joe Lieberman and Barbara Boxer, he co-sponsored the ill-fated Climate Security Act.  However, as we can tell from his website (and his votes), Warner is still trapped in the "all-of-the-above" frame, which ultimately undermines genuine progress on the climate front:
Senator Warner firmly believes that we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil while investing in new technologies that reduce harmful emissions that contribute to climate change.  He favors an "all of the above," portfolio approach that employs solar, wind, bio-fuels, nuclear energy and next generation battery technologies. Senator Warner supports investment in research that focuses on using carbon capture technology so we can continue to use our domestic resources, such as coal, more responsibly.  The science surrounding climate change supports the need for dramatic changes in policy, and Senator Warner believes any comprehensive legislation to address this issue must be balanced with the need to keep our economy viable during this challenging time.
Kay Hagan, like Warner, supports reducing greenhouse gas emissions but still doesn't seem willing to help break our national dependence on oil (unless it's "foreign oil," of course). Back in 2009, Kay Hagan voted against using the budget reconciliation process to pass climate legislation; however, she seemed inclined to vote for Boxer-Kerry legislation, at least according to her responses to constituents.  Although her 2008 campaign website called for reducing carbon emissions 60 to 80 percent by 2050, her current campaign website has no language on energy, environment, or climate issues.

The Energy section on her Senate website has a lot of vague language about "clean energy" with the only specific examples being biofuels and biomass:
Senator Hagan believes that North Carolina can lead the nation in the new energy economy, and supports a comprehensive approach to meeting the energy challenges of the 21st century. Our current dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels makes our nation less secure and leaves America less competitive in the global marketplace. Senator Hagan is a co-chair of the new Clean Energy Innovation Project sponsored by the Third Way, a think-tank that advocates moderate solutions to our policy challenges. She is working in Congress to support investments in research and development to build a domestic clean energy economy and create good-paying jobs that cannot be outsourced. As a State Senator, Hagan led efforts to place North Carolina at the forefront of energy independence and sustainability by requiring local utilities to produce electricity using renewable resources. Senator Hagan was a proponent of the landmark North Carolina Biofuels Center and cutting-edge energy research and development throughout the University of North Carolina system. These commitments have enabled North Carolina companies to compete globally, and have created high-skill manufacturing jobs throughout the state.

Senator Hagan supports a comprehensive approach to meeting the energy challenges of the 21st century. In particular, Senator Hagan supports targeted investments in innovative research and development. Our homes and businesses must become more energy efficient, and it will require a new generation of highly skilled American workers to undertake this essential work. Likewise, recognizing North Carolina's agricultural roots, Senator Hagan is committed to identifying new opportunities for North Carolina farmers to participate in the clean energy economy through investments in next-generation biofuels and biomass power. Our nation's energy independence and national security are linked, and Senator Hagan believes it is essential that we move aggressively to create sustainable energy solutions for the 21st century and beyond.
She also speaks of the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Environment section on her Senate website:
North Carolina's diverse natural resources are central to the state's economy and provide opportunities to hunt, fish and hike. Senator Hagan loves to explore North Carolina's great outdoors with her family and believes that protecting our natural environment is essential to supporting our state's economy.

As a state senator, Senator Hagan cosponsored North Carolina's Clean Smokestacks Act - which limits smog and acid rain pollution from coal-fired power plants - and supported efforts to conserve clean water resources throughout the state. She also pushed for expanded investments in North Carolina's public lands, from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the west to Cape Hatteras National Seashore on the coast. Senator Hagan is continuing these efforts in the U.S. Senate. In commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway, she introduced bipartisan legislation to preserve 50,000 acres of land surrounding the historic roadway.

Senator Hagan is committed to finding commonsense solutions that will protect our environment, preserve sensitive ecosystems and strengthen the North Carolina economy. The United States must lead efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that deteriorate our atmosphere and threaten our environment. To reduce our dependence on foreign oil, Senator Hagan believes we must invest in clean energy technologies that will also create high-paying jobs that cannot be sent overseas.
Kay Hagan is no "climate hawk"; however, she seems persuadable on climate change legislation.  I get the impression that she votes more conservatively on these issues than she would like to in order to cater to the perceived conservatism of her state.

Mark Pryor, as we saw above, voted for Keystone, against pricing carbon, and against the regulation of greenhouse gases. If we look at his voting record, I think we can be sure that he does not support climate action.  But let's turn to his website, too.
In the Jobs Plan he includes on his Senate website, he has a section entitled "Expanding Domestic and Clean Energy":
The United States can outpace its global competitors in the clean energy industry and create thousands of jobs in this emerging multibillion-dollar industry. My plan includes the development of a national energy strategy, allowing us to maximize federal resources so we can capture the lead. For example, the development of natural gas resources in Arkansas has given us a domestic energy edge over global competition. My plan calls for the continued development of the infrastructure to expand this abundant natural resource. My legislation to encourage natural gas vehicle infrastructure and modular nuclear power plants will help. The further development and use of energy-efficient products can also reduce our nation’s reliance on foreign oil and keep U.S. manufacturing jobs at home. That’s why I've supported legislation to encourage new, cost-effective energy-efficiency standards for commercial residential appliances. Developing domestic energy sources keeps our money flowing into the U.S. marketplace instead of overseas, improves our energy security and creates jobs.
His "clean energy economy" consists of nuclear, natural gas, and energy efficiency.  He can't even muster a mention of renewable energy.

I did a search for the term "climate change" on his website, and only 17 press releases appeared.  In a few, he wasn't even the one speaking about the issue, and a few others were just listing it as an issue in town halls back in 2009.  About half of all of these press releases were about an amendment to the 2005 energy bill he co-sponsored with Chuck Hagel.

The only statement in which he actually addressed climate change directly since 2005 was a 2010 explanation of why he voted to ban the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases:
There is clear consensus within the scientific community that human activities will have a serious and costly impact on our environment unless we take meaningful steps to mitigate pollution from greenhouse gases. Although I agree with the science, I firmly believe that Congress, and not the EPA, should determine policy on greenhouse gas emissions. The Murkowski resolution, while not perfect, will prevent this unelected regulatory agency from imposing new rules that could have far-reaching, long-lasting, and ever-changing consequences for all Arkansans. For that reason, I supported the Murkowski resolution.

I do strongly believe that Congress has a responsibility to address climate change, and I will continue working to find an approach that increases our energy security in a smart, efficient, and technologically feasible way. During my tenure in Congress, I’ve promoted legislation to increase energy efficiency and conservation, reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil and natural gas, expand our domestic energy product and invest in clean energy technology. Our work in this arena is far from over. Congress should act quickly, but thoughtfully, in developing comprehensive energy and climate policies that meet our nation’s needs. The costs of inaction or wrong action are too great for future generations.
Well, I'm sorry, Senator Pryor, but the EPA is legally required to regulate carbon from existing power plants. And if he wanted Congress to be in charge of legislating the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, he had the opportunity to do so at least back in 2003, when the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act came to a vote.  Guess what?  He voted no.
Mary Landrieu is our biggest climate culprit among the Senate Democrats up for re-election and perhaps among the whole caucus. During her last election, Landrieu proudly touted a quote from the Baton Rouge Advocate that described her as the "most-fervent pro-drilling" Democrat in the Senate.  And the Advocate was right.  Landrieu loves drilling, and she loves the money she receives from the drillers.  In 2012, according to Open Secrets, she was the largest recipient of oil and gas money in the Democratic Party.

As of 2010, shortly after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Landrieu was the top recipient of BP political contributions, and she had no intention whatsoever of returning that money after the record-breaking damage BP caused. And she's gone to bat for Big Oil, too, doing her best to protect its lucrative tax breaks.

Although she does not deny climate change, she certainly acts as though she does.  In 2003, she voted against the McCain-Leiberman Climate Stewardship Act, which would have established a cap-and-trade system.  She voted no on cloture vote for the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008 as well.

We can even go to her current website to see her hostility toward climate action.  Her section on Energy Security begins with the following passage:
Energy security is paramount to America’s economic health and to our national security. If the U.S. is to become more energy independent and more energy secure, we must aggressively develop our domestic resources, including oil, gas, nuclear, and coal. However, we must also invest heavily in new technologies, alternative fuels, and in efficiency measures at the same time.
So, we see a full-throttle support for fossil fuels and lip service to energy efficiency and the undefined "new technologies and alternative fuels."  Apparently, she can't bring herself to mention wind or solar by name.  Does she ever explain what "new technologies, alternative fuels, and...efficiency measures" she supports?  Haha, of course not!  The rest of that page on her site just talks about oil and gas:
Returning our Gulf to work
Following the Deepwater Horizon Spill, the issuance of permits for new offshore drilling has been painfully slow, and continues to lag behind pre-spill levels. Senator Landrieu is a strong proponent of increasing domestic energy production and is working to reverse this trend. The Senator has pushed for a more efficient permitting process; an essential step in allowing companies to return to their pre-spill levels of productivity. Senator Landrieu strongly opposed the 6-month moratorium on deepwater drilling and defacto moratorium on shallowwater drilling imposed April 2010. She successfully fought for it to be lifted two months early.  

She continues to fight for a clear, understandable set of regulations which will clear the current backlog of drilling permits and allow responsible operators to begin new exploration. This will put protect thousands of jobs in our state which depend on the offshore oil and gas industry, and will help to ensure the energy security of our nation.
This return to productivity is vital not only for the future energy security of our nation, but also for the more than 300,000 Louisianians employed, directly and indirectly, by the oil and gas industry. In December of 2011, the Senator successfully blocked legislative language in the bill funding the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) that would have further slowed the permitting process, and has made clear her expectation that the prompt consideration of permits should be among the agency’s key priorities.
A Fair Share for Louisiana

Louisiana is a recognized leader in domestic oil and gas production.  The Gulf Coast produces more than a quarter of the Nation’s domestic oil and natural gas.   Seventy six percent of America’s offshore energy production takes place directly off of Louisiana’s coast.  For more than 50 years, oil companies produced that oil and gas and sent billions of dollars in royalties to the Federal government—but none to Louisiana, even though our coastal marshlands bore the brunt of the impacts. Thanks to Senator Landrieu’s leadership, Louisiana will receive a fair share of the revenues derived from these precious mineral resources.

In 2006 Senator Landrieu worked with then-Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., to pass the Domenici-Landrieu Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA). For the first time, this law secured a fair share of offshore oil and gas revenues for Louisiana. This independent revenue stream is expected to provide Louisiana billions of additional dollars in coming decades for flood protection and coastal restoration projects. Phase one of GOMESA brought more than $6 million into Louisiana for 2009 alone. Phase two will bring in ever increasing amounts beginning in 2017. It also provides significant funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which funds the creation of parks and outdoor recreation areas across the country.
The Domenici-Landrieu Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act will serve as a template for similar measures around the country – and that will enhance U.S. energy security.   Senator Landrieu believes that a system that shares the benefits of offshore drilling with the coastal states will foster more domestic energy production while helping to restore coastal areas around the country.

Natural Gas

In 2009, Senator Landrieu started the Senate Natural Gas Caucus with Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-GA.  This bipartisan group of Senators works to better understand the role of natural gas in producing clean, affordable and secure American energy.
Natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel and is a plentiful resource in the United States.   Louisiana is home to the Haynesville Shale, a massive deposit that industry experts estimate contains between 7.5 trillion and 20 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The Haynesville Shale has played a key role in the rapid expansion of natural gas production in the United States, an expansion that could see the U.S. potentially become a net exporter of natural gas.

Senator Landrieu recognizes that an increase in natural gas production will benefit the economy.  The natural gas industry currently directly employs 1.3 million people; more than the coal, wind, solar, or nuclear industries.  The United States used $154 billion worth of natural gas in 2010 and increased domestic production will allow American companies to harness this demand to create even more jobs, benefitting our state and national economy.  Senator Landrieu knows that when we produce oil and natural gas in America, we produce jobs in America.
Mary Landrieu is currently third in rank in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, outranked by chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Tim Johnson (D-SD).  With Max Baucus's retirement, Wyden will likely want to take the gavel for the Finance Committee, and Johnson is retiring. That leaves Landrieu next in line to take the gavel for Energy.  She'd have to give up her gavel for the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.  I hope she wants that position more because Landrieu's chairmanship of the Energy Committee would destroy any chance of getting climate legislation rolling in the Senate  again.  Hopefully, if she's re-elected (she might not be), she'll keep her current gavel and let the more pro-environment, pro-climate action senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) take over Energy.  The fate of the planet depends on it.

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