Friday, November 02, 2007

Sanders Calls Lieberman-Warner Climate Vote "One Small Step"

Nov 1: While many environmental organizations and Democratic Senators called the 4-3 vote on the America's Climate Security Act (ACSA, S. 2191) in the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee a "turning point" and "milestone," in the debate on global warming, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), one of the no votes, called the vote "One Small Step, No Giant Leap" [See WIMS 11/1/07]. The bill, introduced by Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA) to address global climate change [See WIMS 10/18/07], was narrowly approved when Senators Lieberman, Warner, Baucus (D-MT), and Lautenberg (D-NJ) voted for the measure; and Barrasso (R-WY), Isakson (R-GA), and Sanders (I-VT) voted against it. The legislation is expected to be taken up by the full Environment & Public Works Committee as soon as the week of November 12.

Sanders opposed the bill because he said "it would not reduce emissions of greenhouse gases as much as scientists say is necessary to stop catastrophic changes in the Earth’s climate." He said, “This bill is a step in the right direction, but it simply does not go far enough to do what scientists tell us must be done to stop global warming. If we are not extremely bold and aggressive, this planet faces a catastrophe in the years to come.” Sanders said he worked with Senator Lautenberg to strengthen the bill in behind-the-scenes negotiations over the past two weeks. At the subcommittee meeting, Sanders offered amendments that were supported by all of the major national environmental organizations. Added to the bill was a Sanders provision that would encourage automobile manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency. To be eligible for a pool of new funds to produce more fuel efficient cars, auto makers first would have to manufacture vehicles that get at least 35 miles per gallon.

Sanders indicated in a release that the subcommittee turned down proposals to carve out resources for solar, wind and other renewable energy sources in the bill that guarantees "whopping sums" for coal ($324 billion) and car makers ($232 billion). It blocked a Sanders amendment to make utilities dramatically reduce emissions from new coal-fired power plants. It voted down an amendment to make polluters pay for carbon emissions starting in 2026 instead of 2036. The majority also failed to set a goal of reducing emissions of heat trapping gases by mid-century by 80 percent -- the amount scientists say must be achieved to be effective. The bill calls for at most a 63 percent reduction by 2050, not enough to matter according to experts.

Sanders said, “I am proud that we pushed to improve the bill. It is stronger today than it was when it was unveiled two weeks ago. I appreciate the support for my amendment to improve fuel economy standards for cars. I look forward to making the bill better. The American people favor bolder action than this bill to prevent a catastrophe for our planet. I hope grass-roots activists will put pressure on senators to pass a stronger bill out of the full environment committee.”

U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), another "no" vote, issued a release saying he fought successfully to improve the legislation and winning votes on two key amendments. Barrasso indicated his first successful amendment ensures that Wyoming, and all states, receive financial assistance to ease any negative impacts the legislation would have on state economies. He said “This bill poses serious challenges for Wyoming 's economy. Our state is the nation's top source for energy, and more specifically energy derived from coal. I will continue to fight to make sure Wyoming jobs and communities are protected from any negative impacts this bill would have on our economic future.”

Barrasso said the second successful amendment allows lower British thermal unit (Btu) coal to qualify for capture and sequestration program incentives.This provision is important because most Wyoming coal has less than 9,000 Btu. Barrasso said he will continue to fight at the full EPW committee level for making the University of Wyoming the new home of a national center for coal research, focusing on clean coal technology on a Federal level.

He said, “When oil is between $90 and $100 dollars a barrel, it is abundantly clear that we need strategic focus on domestic energy sources. Clean coal technologies are the future of a safe, reliable domestic energy source for this nation. Foreign energy sources are unstable. Period. It won't always be a presidential election season when Washington thinks anti-coal views are the vogue. By establishing Wyoming at the forefront of clean-coal technology nationally, we strengthen Wyoming 's role in that future, and provide needed domestic energy sources for our great nation.”

Access a release from Senator Sanders (click here). Access a release from Senator Barrasso (click here). Access the Subcommittee meeting website for a link to the webcast, the original bill and a statement from Senator Lautenberg (click here). Access legislative details on S. 2191 (click here). Access a release from Senator Lieberman (click here). Access a statement from Senator Boxer (click here). Access a release from Union of Concerned Scientists (click here). Access a release from Natural Resources Defense Council (click here). Access a release from Environmental Defense (click here). [*Climate]