Grist talks to Niger Innis about the ‘war on the poor’
After the “War on the Poor” event David and I attended Tuesday morning, we caught Niger Innis of the Congress of Racial Equality for a quick interview about their campaign.
The presentation this morning focused on politicians whom Innis accuses of being engaged in a “war on the poor” — all of which, at this point in the roll-out, are Democrats. The “objective criteria” for making the list, according to the speakers, was how they voted on 16 pieces of legislation this year. Curiously, the “correct” vote on every bill was either explicit support for the fossil-fuels industry or against removal of any of its tax breaks and subsidies. Voting for a bill like the 2007 energy bill — which, among other things, increased automobile fuel efficiency standards in order to bring down costs at the pump for consumers — was a no-no. Voting for the bill to curb energy speculation was also a negative, since according to their literature it “does nothing to increase new sources of energy.” The bill to renew tax credits for renewable energy? Well, the tax credits are “common sense,” but the bill would have removed oil industry tax breaks, so … no.
“The bills that we support are bills that take a comprehensive approach — that support renewables, support energy conservation, but don’t pit fossil fuels versus renewables,” Innis told Grist. “For us to get to the future, a renewable future, that many of us want to get to, there’s going to have to be a bridge, and that bridge is good old-fashioned fossil fuels.”
Each speaker listed the many acceptable sources of energy — curiously, in the exact same order: clean coal, natural gas, oil, oil shale, nuclear, renewables, and efficiency. They don’t want to “pit, artificially, so-called bad energies against good energies. They’re all good energies,” said Innis. Bills solely supporting renewable energy or efficiency “were not on our priority list,” he said.
Asked about the recent report from the Bush administration Energy Information Administration, which says increased production from more drilling is at least 10 years out and would lower gas prices by two or three cents a gallon at most, Innis responded that “there are many reports out there that speculate on the impact that offshore drilling is going to have.” He cited the drop in oil prices that followed Bush’s (symbolic) removal of the federal offshore drilling moratorium as evidence that there will be an immediate “psychological impact” of support for drilling.
As for the impacts of climate change — which will hit poor communities the hardest — says Innis, “We don’t get into the debate … and first of all, we do recognize that there is a debate on the question of global warming.” Later he said that “speculative” concerns over “so-called global warming” should not distract attention from the immediate plight of the poor — who are presumably crying out for some psychological impacts.