Silver Linings and Other Takeaways from the Election

( – promoted by John Morgan)

Despite the anti-incumbent, frustrated mood of yesterday’s elections, there are some silver linings and some important messages for the months ahead.

In California, voters overwhelmingly rejected Big Oil’s attempt to circumvent the most important climate law in the nation. This is an incredibly significant development. For the first time, VOTERS got to have direct input into whether or not they want to move forward with climate solutions. They gave a full-throated call for building the clean energy future in California.

Still, you probably won’t hear much about this resounding victory because some pundits will view it as a wacky, West Coast aberration. But think about it: if the fossil fuel guys had won, the media would have been trumpeting the death of environmentalism, and industry allies in Congress would have been citing the vote as reason to abandon climate legislation. And you can call California “liberal,” but it is also the state with the third largest unemployment rate in the nation. If voters thought clean energy hurt the economy, we wouldn’t have won.

But voters know that clean energy means good things for our economy, and the California vote proves it. Unfortunately, the federal races were less clear.

We saw the House flip last night and several of our climate champs were defeated – but so were many lawmakers who had voted AGAINST climate change.

In Virginia, we saw Congressmen Tom Perriello (VA-5) and Rick Boucher (VA-9) go down. Both supported the climate bill. But, it’s not easy to figure out how much of a factor climate was in those races. We also saw Rep. Glenn Nye (VA-2) bite the dust and he was a vocal opponent of the clean energy legislation.

Same thing in Ohio. We lost Rep. John Boccieri (OH-16) who voted for the House bill, but Rep. Charlie Wilson (OH-6), an outspoken critic, also went down. Meanwhile Rep. Betty Sutton (OH-13) actively defended her vote for clean energy and cruised to reelection. Other Ohio Reps like Zack Space (OH-18) lost their jobs, but they had tried to play both sides of the fence. Space voted for the climate bill, but then tried to keep the Environmental Protection Agency from actually addressing global warming. You can’t have it both ways in an election year when people are looking for leadership.

Yet another example is found in Pennsylvania where we saw clean energy advocate Patrick Murphy (PA-8) defeated and Chris Carney (PA-10), an opponent of our issues, also handed his walking papers.

In race after race, we found voters kicking out the incumbents regardless of their stance on energy. Yet leaders on the issue in the Senate like Barbara Boxer and Harry Reid won.

So, clean energy and climate change probably wasn’t a factor in most races. In the end, this election came down to one thing: the economy.

Our stumbling economy continues to be on the minds of every working family in the country. They are worried about losing their jobs, their homes, and any sense of security that they may have created. The promise of clean energy provides a lot of hope for our stumbling economy and the American people believe that, regardless of who is in charge.

So, we will continue to work. Congress is going to have to take up mandatory bills on spending, infrastructure and agriculture. There are opportunities to make great progress on renewables, adaptation, efficiency and a plethora of other clean energy areas in all of those pieces of legislation. It will be a tough road, but a road worth taking.  

Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: PA-08

This is the twentieth article in a continuing series by the NRDC Action Fund on the environmental stances of candidates in key races around the country.

Today, we examine Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional district — Bucks County, Montgomery County, and northeast Philadelphia.  Currently, the 8th Congressional district is represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by Patrick J. Murphy (D). Murphy is being challenged by Republican Mike Fitzpatrick.

Where does Rep. Murphy stand on clean energy and environmental issues?   In 2009, Murphy received a 93% rating from the League of Conservation Voters.   Murphy also voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), about which he correctly says, it “will create millions of new American jobs, limit the pollution that causes climate change, and reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil by investing in American-made clean energy.”  In addition, Murphy co-sponsored H.R. 890, the American Renewable Energy Act, as well as H.R. 2222, the Green Communities Act and H.R. 1778, the Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) Program, among other excellent environmental legislation. Finally, Rep. Murphy touts the fact that “Bucks County is home to the fourth largest solar field in the United States – the largest east of the Mississippi River” and that “Nearly 1,000 people have been put to work building components for wind turbines and solar panels at the old U.S. Steel site in Fairless Hills in Bucks County.”

 

In contrast, Mike Fitzpatrick says he  “oppose[s] legislation currently being considered by [C]ongress that would implement a carbon ‘cap and trade’ system.”  Fitzpatrick also says he supports “a balanced national energy policy that includes safe, nuclear power, clean coal, responsible offshore drilling and economical, renewable energy.” When he served in Congress, Fitzpatrick received a 61% League of Conservation Voters rating in 2005 and a 73% League of Conservation Voters rating  in 2006.  Fitzpatrick showed a lot of promise last time he was in Congress, even co-cosponsoring Rep. Henry Waxman’s Safe Climate Act of 2006– which would have cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.  Unfortunately, he has had a change of heart and now says he is against “Cap and Trade.”

The NRDC Action Fund believes that it is important for the public in general, and the voters of specific Congressional districts, be aware of this information as they weigh their choices for November.

Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: PA-11

( – promoted by John Morgan)

Originally posted on The Mark Up.

This is the seventh in a continuing series by the NRDC Action Fund on the environmental stances of candidates in key races around the country.  

Northeast Pennsylvania’s 11th Congressional District, including Scranton, Wilkes-Barres and the Poconos resorts, flourished in the 19th century after the discovery of anthracite coal – the highest carbon type of coal available. Coal mining drove development in the region until the 1940s, when demand shifted to cheaper alternatives like oil and natural gas. Today, coal mines are more of a tourist attraction than an economic driver, and Scranton is best known as the setting for NBC’s The Office.

For the past 25 years, the 11th district has been represented in the U.S. House by Democrat Paul Kanjorski. Throughout his time in Congress, Rep. Kanjorski has typically voted the right way on environmental issues. Last year, for example, he received a perfect score from the League of Conservation Votes, which means that he voted for the environment at every opportunity. This includes voting for the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), the first climate bill to pass a chamber in Congress. After the vote he said, “We need to begin the process of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, creating clean energy jobs in America, and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”

In November, Kanjorski will be challenged for the third time by Republican Lou Barletta, the mayor of Hazleton. The Cook Report ranks this race as a “Tossup.” Barletta gained notoriety in 2006 when, as Hazleton’s mayor, he passed one of the nation’s most sweeping anti-immigration laws. He’s had little to say about environmental issues, however, during his multiple Congressional runs, and what he has said is less than encouraging. He wrongly claims that ACES will “stifl[e] the economic recovery and jeopardiz[e] millions of jobs.” The truth is quite the opposite. According to in-depth modeling built on collaborative research by the University of Illinois, Yale University and the University of California, ACES has the potential to boost GDP by more than $100 billion, and create 1.9 million jobs.

Barletta has also been a steadfast proponent of offshore drilling and dirty fuels, like liquid coal. And, after the BP blowout, he posted on his blog that “[a] leaking oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico does not justify the sinking of billions of dollars in a cap-and-tax scheme…” Actually, putting a price on carbon pollution is critical toward breaking our dependence on oil. We need to recognize that it is because we have not engaged in a serious effort to reduce our oil use that we’ve been forced to pursue petroleum products in sensitive areas like the Gulf’s deep waters. Whoever wins this race needs to help lead eastern PA into a new energy future.

The NRDC Action Fund believes that it is important for the public in general, and the voters of specific Congressional districts, be aware of this information as they weigh their choices for November.

Show Up and Speak Up for Climate Change Legislation

Congress is heading back home for the August recess this week. Apparently our Senators need to rest after they failed to take up both a clean energy and climate bill and an oil spill bill.

Legislative inaction must be more tiring than I realized.

Still, I don’t view this month as a cooling off period. If anything, it’s time to turn up the heat.

Over the next few weeks, Senators will be holding “town hall meetings” in their states. Last year, these meetings came to define the health care debate. This year, they could help us reshape America’s energy policy.

If you are like me and you are still stunned that the Senate refused to pass a bill that would have created nearly 2 million new American jobs, put our nation at the forefront of the clean energy market and helped end our addiction to oil, then go to a town hall meeting and tell your lawmakers what you think.

Tell them that it is in America’s best interest to embrace clean energy now.

And while you are at it, please tell them to block attempts by some Senators to weaken the Clean Air Act-the 40-year-old law that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives-in an effort to further delay reductions in global warming pollution.  

Some naysayers claim that voting on visionary legislation is a risky proposition when we are this close to an election. They are wrong, and history proves it.

As I wrote in a recent blog post, 13 of the most powerful environmental laws were passed during the fall of an election year or in the lame duck sessions following elections.  

We can pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this fall, but only if we demand it of our lawmakers.

Use this August to make your voices heard. You can find your Senators’ schedules by checking their Senate websites, as well as their candidate websites – Republican or Democratic.

Coal Barons Meeting Today in Hopes of Ending All Climate Debate for a Generation

( – promoted by John Morgan)

Today, a bunch of coal executives are congregating for the WestVirginia Coal Association annual meeting at the luxurious Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV. One of the primary things they will discuss is the formation of a 527 to take out candidates who may support a climate change bill. As Roger Nicholson of the International Coal Group alluded, the coal barons are psyched that they will FINALLY get their voices heard thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling that basically allows them to buy Congressional seats.

This kind of news just makes me sick – especially since these are the guys who have scarred WV’s land and abused her people. We don’t need to wonder what is driving some Senators to oppose popular legislation that would, in one fell swoop, create millions of jobs, strengthen U.S. national security, defund unsavory regimes and protect our environment from earth-scorching carbon pollution. Follow the money.

Clean energy and climate legislation didn’t make it through the U.S. Senate this summer, despite the overwhelming scientific and economic evidence, and despite the fact that there almost certainly were more than 50 (aka, a “majority” of) Senators willing to vote for such legislation. First and foremost among those reasons, of course, was the near-unanimous opposition by Republicans to move ahead in this area. In addition, there were several Democrats, mostly from states with coal interests, who were probable “no” votes – and the money helps paint the picture about why.

As the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Pete Altman points out, “Next time someone asks why climate legislation is so difficult to move forward, point them this way. Peabody Energy and Arch Coal are prime examples of how narrow special interests can operate in stealth mode to deny climate science and to put the brakes on climate legislation.” How do Peabody and Arch buy influence in Washington, DC? Very simple – money. Lots and lots of money funneled into influencing policy and policymakers. For instance:

— “In 2008 and 2009, Arch Coal ($3.04 million) and Peabody Coal ($14.2 million) spent a combined $17.9 million in direct federal lobbying on energy, environmental and other matters.”

— “The two companies contributed $5 million each to the budget of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (“ACCCE”) in 2008, and presumably have continued to keep their memberships current with contributions in 2009 and 2010.”

According to Open Secrets, in 2010 alone Arch Coal has donated $39,500 to Democratic members of Congress and $88,000 to Republican members of Congress. For its part, Peabody Coal has contributed $53,400 to Democrats and $45,400 to Republicans.

I could go on all day about the money flowing to Congress from corporations and PACs with an interest in killing clean energy and climate legislation, but I’m sure you get the picture by now. Despite the overwhelming benefits this legislation would bring to the vast majority of Americans, as well as to the U.S. economy and our national security, a few wealthy companies, driven by nothing more than greed, have spent lavishly to make sure none of this happens. And so far, they’ve succeeded.  The question is:  will we let them continue to do so?  Personally, my answer is no way!

Stop the Senate from Gutting the Clean Air Act!

Just when you thought the U.S. Senate couldn't do any less for clean energy and the environment than it's (not) done so far, we now face the real possibility of what would amount to a “stop-work order” on the 40-year-old, wildly successful (e.g., studies finding benefits outweighing costs at a 40:1 ratio), Clean Air Act.

That's right: believe it or not, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is moving ahead with a sequel to Sen. Lisa Murkowski's nefarious attempt, earlier this summer, to gut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s power to protect the public health from dangerous pollutants, including harmful greenhouse gases.  Just as bad, Rockefeller's proposal would keep America addicted to oil and other old, polluting energy technologies, while delaying or derailing our switch to a clean, prosperous energy economy.  

Essentially, what Rockefeller is proposing would tell the EPA – at least for two years, although we know that justice delayed is often justice denied! – that it has to be asleep at the switch, that it must not hold polluters accountable, that it must look the other way whole Big Oil and Big Coal trash the environment. Is that the lesson the Senate learned from the Gulf of Mexico disaster?  Really?

Fortunately, not everyone is so clueless as the U.S. Senate appears to be right now.  For instance, in yesterday's Politico, two energy investors – one Democrat, one Republican – explained what's at stake in clear, compelling language.

We are not experts in vote counting or horse trading. But we do know how investors and markets will respond if Congress ultimately fails to put a market-based price on carbon. The response from capital will be brutal: Money will flow to places like China, Europe and India — and U.S. jobs will go with it.

The path to creating more U.S. jobs is simple: Pass legislation that eliminates uncertainty and levels the playing field, and investors will fund projects that create good jobs here at home. Rules bring certainty, certainty spurs investment, and investment creates jobs.

[…]

Take it from investors: Removing the uncertainty, and taking a more thoughtful approach to energy policy by putting a market price on carbon, can bring home new investments and jobs — and ensure that America leads the clean energy economy.

Instead, it now looks like the Senate not only won't be moving us forwards, but instead will be trying to move us significantly – and disastrously – backwards. What's truly stunning about this possibility is that, right now, the science of climate change is clearer and more disturbing than ever.  Heat waves are getting worse, the ice caps are shrinking faster than ever, and scientists are telling us that the world is setting new temperature records almost every month, every year, and every decade.   In addition, the results of our insatiable thirst for fossil fuels were demonstrated starkly and tragically, both in a West Virginia coal mine as well as in the Gulf of Mexico, on TV screens all across America in recent months.  As if all this isn't bad enough, we also could run out of water.

The American people know this situation can't go on. In fact, recent polls show large majorities supporting an energy bill that would “[l]imit pollution, invest in domestic energy sources and encourage companies to use and develop clean energy…by charging energy companies for carbon pollution in electricity or fuels like gas.” In other words, this is a case where good policy – limiting greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing our national security, safeguarding public health, jumpstarting a clean energy revolution – and good politics – strong poll results for doing just that – appear to align.  Yet, the U.S. Senate appears ready to ignore both good policy and good politics, and actually move to make matters worse by gutting the EPA and letting polluters like BP off the hook.

Don’t let them do it.  Call your Senators right now and tell them “hell no” to the “Let Polluters Pollute with Impunity Act.”  Also, while you’re at it, call the White House and tell President Obama that, if such a measure reaches his desk, he will veto it – no ifs, ands, or buts.

Take action today for a cleaner, stronger, and more sustainable future. Join NRDC Action Fund on Facebook and Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest environmental issues and actions you can take to help protect our planet.

Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: PA-08

This is the second in a continuing series by the NRDC Action Fund on the environmental stances of candidates in key races around the country.  Today, we examine Pennsylvania's 8th Congressional district — Bucks County, Montgomery County, and northeast Philadelphia.  Currently, the 8th CD is represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by Patrick J. Murphy (D).  Murphy is being challenged by Republican Mike Fitzpatrick.

Where does Rep. Murphy stand on clean energy and environmental issues?  In 2009, Murphy received a 93% rating from the League of Conservation Voters. Murphy also voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), about which he correctly says, it “will create millions of new American jobs, limit the pollution that causes climate change, and reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil by investing in American-made clean energy.”  In addition, Murphy co-sponsored H.R. 890, the American Renewable Energy Act, as well as H.R. 2222, the Green Communities Act and H.R. 1778, the Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) Program, among other excellent environmental legislation. Finally, Rep. Murphy touts the fact that “Bucks County is home to the fourth largest solar field in the United States – the largest east of the Mississippi River” and that “Nearly 1,000 people have been put to work building components for wind turbines and solar panels at the old U.S. Steel site in Fairless Hills in Bucks County.”  

In contrast, Mike Fitzpatrick says he “oppose[s] legislation currently being considered by [C]ongress that would implement a carbon 'cap and trade' system.” Fitzpatrick also says he supports “a balanced national energy policy that includes safe, nuclear power, clean coal, responsible offshore drilling and economical, renewable energy.” When he served in Congress, Fitzpatrick received a 61% League of Conservation Voters rating in 2005 and a 73% League of Conservation Voters rating in 2006.  Fitzpatrick also was a co-cosponsor with Rep. Henry Waxman on the Safe Climate Act of 2006 – which would have cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 – but now says he is against “Cap and Trade.”

We believe that it is important for the public in general, and the voters of specific Congressional districts, be aware of this information as they weigh their choices for November.

Take action today for a cleaner, stronger, and more sustainable future. Join NRDC Action Fund on Facebook and Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest environmental issues and actions you can take to help protect our planet.

My Kids Are Losers: Commentary on the Climate Debate

The climate bill blame game has begun. When I first started writing this post about the so-called death of the climate bill, I literally pointed the finger at just about everyone, including myself. The anger poured out, and I was frank in my assessment as well as unforgiving in the motives behind this latest setback.

After I was done with my self-loathing tantrum, the kids ran in the door from camp and I was swept up in the lovely reality of my family's banter. It is summer, so the pace in our home is a bit more relaxed in the evening. We aren't quite as quick to rush through dinner, toss the kids in a bath, and then march them off to bed. Ice cream and extra cuddles are relished, and I am reminded each year at this time why I do this job.

Later, after progeny were tucked in, I went back to my draft blog post to spruce it up. I reread my rage, disappointment, and irrational ramblings and was embarrassed. And I asked myself “What good is all this blame going to do?”

At the end of the day, it is my kids – and your kids – who lose when we implode. If you think kids have a lot to say about their parents now on Dr. Phil, can you imagine what our children will say in 50 years should we fail to get our act together?

The country should be ready for this. The facts are on our side. As we witness the worst industry-caused environmental catastrophe in our history, the worst coal mining disaster in 40 years, and sweat through the hottest first 6 months of any year on record, it is clear that there's never been a more urgent time to move forward with a smart clean energy and climate plan.

Unfortunately, the politicians just aren't there. At every juncture during this debate, a minority, led by the Republican leadership and supported by a few impressionable (I might say pathetic) Democrats, has obstructed the opportunity to solve America's energy problems, preferring to leave the worst polluters and the big petro-dictators in control of our energy policy, while tax-payers are forced to pay for their messes.

Oopsy… there goes that blame again. Let's focus on what we can do next.

Hope is not lost. Of course, the closer we get to the midterm elections, the more challenging passing a bill becomes. Still, it's not impossible. In fact, the Senate has passed almost every single bedrock environmental law in the fall of an election year or in the “lame duck” session following an election. Here are just a few examples:

o Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) – 1996 Amendments: 8/6/96

o Food Quality Protection Act: 8/3/96

o Energy Policy Act of 1992: 10/24/92

o Clean Air Act of 1990: 11/15/90

o SDWA – 1986 Amendments: 6/19/86

o CERCLA (Superfund): House 9/23/80, Senate 11/24/80, POTUS 12/11/80

o Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA): 10/21/76

o Toxic Substances & Control Act (TSCA): 10/11/76

o SDWA: 12/16/74

o Clean Water Act: 10/18/72

o Establishment of the EPA: first proposed 7/9/70, established 12/2/70

o National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): 1/1/70

o The Wilderness Act: 9/3/64

As this list demonstrates, the Senate and the environmental movement are no strangers to passing major legislation right before – or just after – an election.

I don't want to overpromise success. This is an uphill battle. But if you and I show up to every town hall, rally, spaghetti dinner, and other rituals of election year and fight for our kids… fight for our country… fight for our America… we can turn the tide. Without that kind of passion, we will all lose. That's an outcome we must try hard to avoid, on behalf of people, communities, large and small businesses – oh, and our kids, sleeping peacefully or playing happily around the country.

In the meantime, we must also protect what we already have, like a plethora of state laws and the federal Clean Air Act. I recommend reading David Doniger's blog on Switchboard today that really outlines how we can make progress with the tools we have right now.

In coming weeks and months, we must continue to push forward for a strong, clean energy and climate bill, just like we have done countless times in the past. I am done with blame. History is on our side. Are you?

Take action today for a cleaner, stronger, and more sustainable future. Join NRDC Action Fund on Facebook and Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest environmental issues and actions you can take to help protect our planet.

No, Senator Klobuchar, More Corn Ethanol is NOT the Answer!

(Corn Ethanol has been billed by some as a solution to our dependence on fossil fuels, but in examining the pollutants from its use, you’d be hard pressed to see how the use of ethanol is better or less of an evil than oil/gasoiline.  It’s like the high fructose corn syrup lobby that keeps lying to America telling them corn syrup is just fine and natural.  Yeah, by itself in moderation, sure, but to the levels it is used in food products and the addition of other sweeteners to those products, plus the long-term effects of high fructose corn syrup, should make you want to run the other way from corn products of these two types…keep corn a naturally whole food and stop morphing it into dangerous substances for cheap profit! – promoted by Jamoca)

According to The Hill newspaper, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) “is introducing legislation to expand use of renewable electricity and transportation fuels that she says is a way to increase political support for broad energy legislation among farm-state lawmakers.” Reuters adds that Klobuchar's legislation would promote “a long-term extension of biofuel tax breaks.”  Klobuchar says, “it is time to look at home-grown energy and that includes biofuels and they should be part of this.”

At first glance, that all sounds innocuous enough, but there's a major problem: Sen. Klobuchar is (cleverly) baiting the hook with a strong Renewable Energy Standard, which most environmentalists support, but at the same time she's also including the worst of the worst biofuels proposals – corn ethanol.  For instance, as Nathanael Greene of NRDC points out, Klobuchar's proposal includes a 5-year extension of the corn ethanol tax credit, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $30 billion.  Klobuchar's legislation also appears to redefine old-growth forests as “biomass,” potentially promoting deforestation.   And Klobuchar's legislation would harm the development of truly advanced biofuels, in favor of corn ethanol.   There's more, but that's sufficient to give you a good idea of how misguided and potentially harmful this bill happens to be.

More broadly, the problem is that promoting corn ethanol actually would set us backwards on our climate and clean energy goals.   NRDC has written a great deal about corn-based ethanol, most of which is not flattering.

*From an NRDC article published in March 2010, we learn that “the current corn ethanol tax credit is effectively costing tax payers $4.18 per gallon and is driving up grain prices.”  The author, Nathanael Greene, concludes that “[w]e don't need an additional 1.4 billion gallons of corn ethanol, or the higher prices for grains and more deforestation that come with it…It's time to transition from corn ethanol's pollution and pork to a new generation of more sustainable biofuels that brings us closer to real energy independence.”

*From this NRDC article published in January 2010, it turns out that “The old, dirty ethanol industry is dominated by big companies like Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Poet.” The author, Roland Hwang, adds, “It’s baffling why an industry that benefits from $4 billion a year in government subsidies can’t find a way to compete on environmental merits.”

*As Nathanael Greene points out here, “the nitrogen runoff from corn grown all along the Mississippi causes a huge dead zone in the Gulf every summer.”  And, “[w]ith about a third of the corn crop going to make corn ethanol, it should be clear that more corn ethanol is not a real solution.”

In addition to NRDC, Barack Obama also weighed in during the 2008 presidential campaign, declaring that “we're going to have a transition from corn-based ethanol to cellulosic ethanol, not using food crops as the source of energy.”

Last but not least, Earth Policy Institute founder Lester Brown and Clean Air Task Force Jonathan Lewis, writing in April 2008, explained in devastating terms why corn ethanol is so problematic:

It is now abundantly clear that food-to-fuel mandates are leading to increased environmental damage. First, producing ethanol requires huge amounts of energy — most of which comes from coal.

Second, the production process creates a number of hazardous byproducts, and some production facilities are reportedly dumping these in local water sources.

Third, food-to-fuel mandates are helping drive up the price of agricultural staples, leading to significant changes in land use with major environmental harm.

Most troubling, though, is that the higher food prices caused in large part by food-to-fuel mandates create incentives for global deforestation, including in the Amazon basin. As Time magazine reported this month, huge swaths of forest are being cleared for agricultural development. The result is devastating: We lose an ecological treasure and critical habitat for endangered species, as well as the world's largest “carbon sink…”

Meanwhile, the mandates are not reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Last year, the United States burned about a quarter of its national corn supply as fuel — and this led to only a 1 percent reduction in the country's oil consumption.

In short, the problem is that while “biofuels” sounds as benign as apple pie, corn ethanol – the main biofuel available today – is actually bad for the environment both in the U.S. and abroad, bad for the poor, and bad for the American taxpayer.

Just to be clear, ethanol from cellulosic material is a completely different – and far superior – story from other, advanced biofuels (e.g., cellulosic), but advanced biofuels are not what Senator Klobuchar's talking about here.  To the contrary, Senator Klobuchar is using this once-in-a-generation chance for comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation, to push through a big agribusiness, corn ethanol boondoggle that will harm the environment, do nothing to reduce U.S. dependence on oil or to help strengthen U.S. national security.

Yes, we want increased production of renewable energy like wind and solar. Yes, biofuels done the right way could be an important part of the U.S. energy mix.  But no, Sen. Klobuchar's approach – promoting dirty, old corn ethanol – is simply not the correct approach to the energy and environmental challenges we are facing.

Lessons from the “Enlightened Eight”: Republicans Can Vote Pro-Environment and Not Get “Tea Partied

On June 26, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 219-212 in favor of HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). Only eight Republicans – we'll call them the “Enlightened Eight” – voted “aye.” These Republicans were Mary Bono-Mack (CA-45), Mike Castle (DE-AL), John McHugh (NY-23), Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2), Leonard Lance (NJ-7), Mark Kirk (IL-10), Dave Reichert (WA-8), and Christopher Smith (NJ-4).

Republicans voting for cap and trade in the year of the Tea Party? You'd think that they'd be dumped in the harbor by now. Instead, they're all doing fine. In fact, to date, not a single one of these Republicans has been successfully primaried by the “tea party” (or otherwise). Instead, we have two – Castle and Kirk – running for U.S. Senate, one (McHugh) who was appointed Secretary of the Army by President Obama, and five others – Bono-Mack, LoBiondo, Lance, Reichert, Smith – running for reelection.

Rep. Lance actually was challenged by not one, not two, but three “Tea Party” candidates. One of Lance's opponents, David Larsen, even produced this nifty video, helpfully explaining that “Leonard Lance Loves Cap & Trade Taxes.” So, did this work? Did the Tea Partiers overthrow the tyrannical, crypto-liberal Lance? Uh, no. Instead, in the end, Lance received 56% of the vote, easily moving on to November.

Meanwhile, 100 miles or so south on the Jersey Turnpike, Rep. LoBiondo faced two “Tea Party” candidates – Donna Ward and Linda Biamonte – who also attacked on the cap-and-trade issue. According to Biamonte, cap and trade “is insidious and another tax policy… a funneling of money to Goldman Sachs and Al Gore through derivatives creating a carbon bubble like the housing bubble.” You'd think that Republican primary voters in the year of the Tea Party would agree with this line of attack. Yet LoBiondo won with 75% of the vote.

Last but not least in New Jersey, Christopher Smith easily turned back a Tea Party challenger – Alan Bateman – by a more than 2:1 margin. Bateman had argued that “Obama knows he can count on Smith to support the United Nations' agenda to redistribute American wealth to foreign countries through international Cap & Trade agreements and other programs that threaten our sovereignty.” Apparently, Republican voters in NJ-4 didn't buy that argument.

Across the country in California's 45th District, Mary Bono-Mack won 71% of the vote over Tea Party candidate Clayton Thibodeau on June 8. This, despite Thibodeau attacking Bono-Mack as “the only Republican west of the Mississippi to vote for Cap and Trade.” Thibodeau also called cap and trade “frightening,” claiming that government could force you to renovate your home or meet requirements before you purchase a home. Thibodeau's scare tactics on cap-and-trade clearly didn't play in CA-45.

Finally, in Washington's 8th Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Dave Reichert has drawn a Tea Party challenger named Ernest Huber, who writes that Cap and Trade “is widely viewed as an attempt at Soviet-style dictatorship using the environmental scam of global warming/climate change… written by the communist Apollo Alliance, which was led by the communist Van Jones, Obama's green jobs czar.” We'll see how this argument plays with voters in Washington's 8th Congressional District, but something tells us it's not going to go over any better than in the New Jersey or California primaries.

In sum, it appears that it's quite possible for Republicans to vote for comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation and live (politically) to tell about it. The proof is in the primaries.