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Friday, July 3, 2009

American Clean Energy and Security Act: Sop to Big Ag?

I sort of like the American Clean Energy and Security Act... sort of. However, Dennis Kucinich, Ken Blanchard, and Joel Rosenthal (among others) may change my mind.

My man Dennis, as I have noted previously, voted against ACESA, saying it doesn't do enough to really address climate change. Dr. Blanchard and his studious commenters offer an assortment of numbers that question our ability to absorb the costs of going green. (An argument still worth waging: can we afford not to go green?)

What really gets me this week is this article forwarded to me by Mr. Rosenthal. It comes from the conservative Washington Examiner, which I read at my own peril. But when conservative voices criticize corporate pork, my ears perk up:

What began as a liberal crusade to slow manmade global warming is increasingly becoming a porkfest for well-connected corporations.

In order to get a vote today on greenhouse gas restrictions, House Democrats have bought off farm-state lawmakers with gifts to the farm lobby and the ethanol and agri-chemical industries--gifts that further undermine the legislation's purported environmental benefits.

Monsanto and Archer Daniels Midland, two of the environmentalists' corporate enemies, now stand to profit handsomely from the Waxman-Markey bill's cap-and-trade scheme aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the hope of slowing the shift in climate [Timothy P. Carney, "Pelosi Buys Off Agri-Business to Advance Climate Bill," Washington Examiner, 2009.06.26].

Where's a modern hippie to put his allegiances? ACESA is supposed to fight climate change and wasteful energy practices. But to get it passed, we have to offer goodies to the ag-industrial complex, like...
  1. not counting deforestation to grow more food overseas in the indirect cost of ethanol;
  2. giving USDA instead of EPA the power to determine what activities farmers can count as saleable offsets under cap-and-trade (the problem, says Carney: Big Ag has a lot more influence over USDA);
  3. boosting chemical herbicide use, since controlling weeds by tilling releases more carbon dioxide.
Now that last one is tricky: no-till farming does lots of good, such as preventing soil erosion, reducing run-off that pollutes nearby streams and lakes, and making earthworks happy (really! Scientific American says so!). But do we take that trade at the cost of more reliance on Roundup and other chemicals in our food?

Is ACESA a sell-out to Big Ag? If so, it apparently wasn't a big enough sell-out for our own farm-state Congresswoman, who voted against the bill last week. I'm still for taking big action to make America use energy more sensibly (the word Security isn't in the bill's title just for looks). Still, I'm eager to hear whether the debate in the Senate can clarify whether this bill does what it promises or whether it is just another sop to the corporate interests.

Update 11:01 CDT: On the other hand, an eager reader forwards this Salon.com article by Joseph Romm, arguing that, for all its warts and weaknesses, ACESA is still the right start toward clean energy. The original 1963 Clean Air Act, Romm notes, was also far from good enough, but it "established a framework" for future improvements. Romm makes the big-picture argument for ACESA:

The key to framing a win on this bill is to portray it -- accurately -- as the single most important vote a member will ever cast. If we fail to stop catastrophic global warming, future generations will not care what we have done on issues like health care, the deficit and Iraq. If we fail to stop massive sea level rise, widespread desertification, and 10-degrees-Fahrenheit warming over much of the inland U.S. -- all of which we face on our current emissions path -- then every person who voted against this bill will be vilified by history [Joseph Romm, "One Brief Shining Moment for Clean Energy," Salon.com, 2009.06.27].

1 comment:

  1. Ugh.

    Putting corn into gas tanks is wrong, but the vast majority of the corn being grown these days isn't good for much else.

    It's got next to no nutrient value because it's grown on depleted soils with petroleum-based nitrates that kill soil microorganisms.

    You eat it (as almost all of us do--there's hardly any avoiding it)and it gives you diabetes because there's nothing there but pure unadulterated carbohydrate that has usually been refined into HFCS.

    We have got to stop--but one or two or a hundred farmers going out of business isn't going to change the system--this commodity-based yield-and-profit-above-all policy has to change at the federal level for the health of our people--and our world.

    Thanks, Cory. Rant over.



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