News from the Farm Bill front

Democracy in jeopardy

In a recent post about the timing of the Farm Bill, I talked about when things related to farm and food policy are likely to move in Congress. There is new information available now, and it's becoming increasingly clear that we all could be in serious trouble if we don't act now to voice our opinion about the state of our food system. Though pressure to consider major reforms in the bill is as strong as ever, events of this week are leaving me with much less hope that new leadership will lead to any positive change without a fierce shove in the right direction.

My one and only post on the Rachel Carson nonsense

I shall speak now and then forever hold my peace

So, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) planned to introduce a bill to honor Rachel Carson — author of the seminal Silent Spring — on the 100th anniversary of her birth. Carson is, as non-psychotics know, a hero who did about as much as any human being in history to raise awareness, not only of toxic chemicals in the environment, but of our symbiotic and delicate relationship to the ecosystems we inhabit. Cardin has since decided not to introduce the bill. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said he would block it. Block it, you ask? Who would bother to block a piece of …

Taxes: bad because they produce revenue

Conservative critique of the carbon tax

This story contains two things: Evidence that when it comes to climate and energy policy, mainstream Democratic politicians (+ John McCain) are more or less in consensus: yes on "the need to enhance energy efficiency, introduce a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases, and incentivize clean energy technology,” no to a carbon tax. The worst argument against a carbon tax ever: “A tax won’t work,” said John Raidt, adviser to McCain. “It will just raise money for bureaucrats. There’s no telling where that money would go.” Classic conservatism. “The money will just drift off into The Government, and then god knows …

Dems in Congress: 'Green-collar jobs' will fight poverty and global warming

A hearing in the House shows promise

Hooray! Hooray! Finally! Yesterday, some House Democrats finally "connected the dots" on ways to solve two of the nation's biggest problems: failing American job security and global climate security. By addressing both issues simultaneously, these congressional leaders may re-energize the anti-poverty movement -- and transform the debate on global warming. U.S. Representatives Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) both sit on the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed the committee. Markey is the chair. Yesterday the Select Committee held a special hearing, entitled: "Economic Impacts of Global Warming: Green Collar Jobs." (I was happy to provide testimony [PDF] at the hearing, along with Elsa Barboza [PDF] of SCOPE in Los Angeles and Jerome Ringo [PDF] of the Apollo Alliance.) At the special hearing, Congresswoman Solis addressed the importance of using green collar jobs both as a way to curb global warming and as a pathway out of poverty.

Are Republican presidential candidates taking global warming seriously?

Brownback’s plan is not promising

He hasn’t released a detailed plan yet, but Republican presidential contender Sam Brownback gave a speech yesterday to the Set America Free coalition that outlined his thoughts on energy policy. (There’s more info in this Greenwire story, but it’s subscription only.) Republican candidates haven’t talked about climate and energy as much as their Dem counterparts, but Brownback’s comments are more or less representative. Consider this a critique, then, of mainstream Republican climate/energy policy. Brownback — like Romney and McCain, at least — acknowledges global warming and the need to reduce carbon emissions. He says that "we need to reduce our …

Shocker: EPA enforcement declines


File this under Predictable but Depressing: Environmental enforcement efforts by U.S. EPA and the Justice Department have plummeted over the last five years, resulting in a 38 percent decline in criminal fines and a 25 percent drop in civil penalties, according to a new report [PDF] from the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project. (You need a password to get to the story, but not to get to the report.)

Department of unresolved contradictions

I’m going to put up a longer post about this in a second, but for now, I merely note the following two statements from Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback’s energy speech. One: … we need to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. This is possible using our ingenuity, resources and determination. Two: Coal needs to be at the center of our energy policy for the foreseeable future.

Another attempt to push nukes

Using high gas prices to push for a rebirth

In today's New York Times, President Gerald Ford's energy adviser, in an article entitled "How to Win the Energy War," tries to use higher gas prices and oil dependence as an excuse to build more nuclear reactors: The other major way to wean us from oil is to resume construction of nuclear power plants. Nuclear energy is the cleanest and best option for America's electric power supply, yet it has been stalled by decades of unproductive debate. Our current commercial nuclear power plants have an outstanding record of safety and security, and new designs will only raise performance. How can Washington help? One thing would be federal legislation to streamline the licensing of new plants and the approval of sites for them. His first way to wean us from oil is to gradually increase gas taxes. Ford's original energy independence plan might make you wince, as it included 150 new coal-fired plants and 200 nuclear power plants. Not a word about global warming or peak oil, by the way. Not that mentioning those would help: Prime Minister Tony Blair tried to use global warming as a cover for more nukes, a trick that even Margaret Thatcher used as well.

Gore on the phone

A conference call about his new book

Yesterday I was on a conference call with Al Gore, who was chatting with some blogger types about his new book, The Assault on Reason. It was convivial, if not particularly revelatory. Taylor Marsh wrote all about it, and if you want to listen to an hour-long phone call, you can get it here. It didn’t occur to me that anybody would be recording, so I asked kind of abstruse questions: a) was there ever a time when reason governed democratic dialogue? and b) isn’t clinging to this Enlightenment division between reason and emotion one reason progressives are such poor …