Cross-posted from Wonk Room.

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) has wielded his power as the chair of the House Agriculture Committee to shape clean energy legislation on behalf of industrial agriculture interests. Peterson’s efforts to limit environmental regulation of industrial farmers in the American Clean Energy and Security Act may have been motivated by the hundreds of thousands of dollars he has received from agribusiness. Yesterday, Peterson appeared at a town hall meeting in Colorado with Rep. Betsy Markey (D-CO), and explained that his actions are also shaped by anti-science ideology:

Many of my people think global warming is a hoax, and I’m a little skeptical myself. But it’s going on all over the world, and it’s not good to put all that carbon in the atmosphere.

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After winning concessions so that “the EPA will not run the program for agriculture, the department of agriculture will,” Peterson voted in favor of the ACES Act, which creates a carbon market but limits traditional Clean Air Act regulation of global warming pollutants. Peterson told the town hall audience that if the legislation isn’t passed and EPA regulates carbon pollution on its own, “you’ll have to get a catalytic converter for all your cows.”

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Extremist climate denier Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) is responsible for the bizarre canard that regulation of global warming pollution requires bovine catalytic converters. Sensenbrenner has been making this absurd claim since 2007, and this June embarrassed Fox News interviewer Megyn Kelly in June with a rant about “cow farts” and “a catalytic converter on each end of the cow.”

In reality, traditional regulation of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases — including performance standards and construction permitting — would powerfully complement a carbon cap-and-trade system to build a clean-energy economy. As the USDA has found, the economic opportunity for farmers and ranchers far outweighs any costs of compliance. In a side note, catalytic converters actually generate carbon dioxide by breaking down carbon monoxide. So the doomsday Peterson and Sensenbrenner imagine is not only a fantasyland cartoon, it doesn’t even make sense.

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