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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Herseth Sandlin and Kucinich Vote Against Energy Security Bill

South Dakota's lone voice in the House of Representatives, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, joined 168 Republicans and 44 fellow Dems Friday night to vote against HR 2454, The American Clean Energy and Security Act. (The bill still passed, 219-212.) In a relative rarity, SHS found herself voting alongside my favorite Democrat's Democrat, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich. My man Dennis's reasoning is quite straightforward:

I oppose H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. The reason is simple. It won’t address the problem. In fact, it might make the problem worse.

It sets targets that are too weak, especially in the short term, and sets about meeting those targets through Enron-style accounting methods. It gives new life to one of the primary sources of the problem that should be on its way out—coal—by giving it record subsidies. And it is rounded out with massive corporate giveaways at taxpayer expense. There is $60 billion for a single technology which may or may not work, but which enables coal power plants to keep warming the planet at least another 20 years.

Worse, the bill locks us into a framework that will fail. Science tells us that immediately is not soon enough to begin repairing the planet. Waiting another decade or more will virtually guarantee catastrophic levels of warming. But the bill does not require any greenhouse gas reductions beyond current levels until 2030 [Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), "Passing a Weak Bill Today Gives Us Weak Environmental Policy Tomorrow," press release, 2009.06.26].

Our Congresswoman's rationale is much less about principle and problem-solving and much more about denying her local GOP foes a brush with which to paint her Pelosi in 2010. She says we need to address the very complex issue of climate change, but she doesn't want South Dakota to have to pay for it... or more accurately, she doesn't want to have to do the difficult work of convincing South Dakotans that they need to pay for solutions. (South Dakota may elect Dems to Congress, but we still expect them to act like Republicans. Sigh.)

Kucinich voted against ACESA because it does too little. SHS voted against ACESA because it does too much, like cap and trade, that needs to separate herself from to win against whatever Republican challenges her for whatever office next year.

By the way, HR 2454 is not just climate change and cap and trade. Here's a sampling of other ACESA provisions that SHS voted against:
There's plenty in this bill to like, plenty SHS could highlight to sell it to her constituents. But even after four consecutive election victories, SHS doesn't feel she has the political capital in her home state to really lead the public debate. Darn.

On the costs of cap and trade: How big a pocketbook bite would SHS have had to sell to us to justify a yes vote on ACESA? According to the Truth-o-Meter folks at Politifact.com, the Congressional Budget Office estimates this specific bill would cost $175 per household... a little more than one postage stamp a day. But your mileage would vary, based on income: low-income families (lots of South Dakotans) would actually save money. Higher-income families would pay $235–$340 more per year... still not quite a buck a day.

And one industry group, ACEEE, says the bill's energy-saving programs could building code improvements, appliance efficiency, and building retrofits could save $750 per hosuehold by 2020 and $3,900 per household by 2030.


  1. Herseth-Sandlin was smart to join Republicans and several Democrats in opposing this bill at this early stage. While there are important discussion points in areas of the bill, it is useless to fast-track an Energy Security Bill, add the tax burden to taxpayers at their weakest point in decades and not have the world moving in the same direction. Unless China, Europe, South America, Russia and other huge polluters get on board, our little one-country effort will mean nothing in the scope of the world. If Democrats want to really push global responsibility while they have power, they need to bring dozens of countries to the table, set goals, implement a diverse set of new programs that is universally accepted and adopted worldwide among developed countries. Otherwise, it simply looks good politically, but accomplishes nothing other than sock the taxpayers.

  2. Too bad Herseth-Sandlin wasn't at the International Climate Stewardship Solutions Conference in Bismarck, ND this week. Attendees from other nations that have done something meaningful about climate change without destroying their economies in the process were there, talking about their experiences. I understand they held North Dakota's Rep. Pomeroy, who also voted against the bill, acountable for his vote, saying that there simply isn't time to delay taking action.


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