collinCollin Peterson, right: plowing over attempts to reign in greenhouse gas emissions.

House ag committee chair Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) spent much of last summer gutting the Waxman-Markey climate change bill. Before the legislative process started, Peterson and his allies had made sure that the legislation would place no cap on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. By the end of the process, he had turned Waxman-Markey into yet another goodie bag for agribusiness.

After performing this feat, with much bluster and rallying of the Blue dog troops, Peterson reluctantly voted for Waxman-Markey. Since then, he has vowed repeatedly to cram yet more goodies for agribusiness into the bill if it ever got to reconciliation.

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Well, I guess that was Peterson’s defense strategy. Now that climate legislation is gasping its death rattle, the great champion of agribusiness is on the offensive. If he gets his way, the federal government will be unable to regulate greenhouse gases at all–and the globe will lurch inexorably into a future of climate chaos. Peterson’s office announced Tuesday that …:

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Today, U.S. Representative Collin Peterson joined House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) and Representative Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) in introducing legislation to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, and to stop the EPA from harming the renewable fuels industry.

“I have no confidence that the EPA can regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act without doing serious damage to our economy,” Peterson said. “Americans know we’re way too dependent on foreign oil and fossil fuels in this country – and I’ve worked hard to develop practical solutions to that problem – but Congress should be making these types of decisions, not unelected bureaucrats at the EPA.”

Peterson watchers will remember that the ag chairman nurses a vendetta against the EPA. Why? Because the agency once dared question the ecological value of corn ethanol–in Peterson’s world, tantamount to debunking the virgin birth at Christmas service in front of the faithful.

And that gets to the heart of Peterson’s jihad against any significant attempt to reign in greenhouse gas emissions. The fundamental issue is this: Carpeting the vast middle of the country in monocrops of corn is fundamentally unsustainable. The practice consumes massive fossil resources, destroys soil, contributes mightily to greenhouse gas emissions, and foul waterways. Unhappily, the agribusiness interests that Peterson champions rely on this practice for their financial sustainability. Companies across the agribusiness spectrum depend on it for their survival: from meat behemoths like Tyson, which need cheap corn to profitably churn out cheap meat; to grain processors like Archer Daniels Midland, which thrive by turning cheap corn into dubious products like ethanol and high-fructose corn syrup; to Monsanto, which dominates the corn-seed industry.

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Any truly meaningful regime to reduce greenhouse gases–whether it’s cap and trade, a carbon tax, or EPA enforcement of the Clean Air Act–would by necessity push farmers to diversify away from corn and soy and reduce their dependence on agrichemicals. And that’s why, if you’re Collin Peterson, any serious attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must be opposed savagely, tooth and nail.