movement stagnation has few leaders more frozen in the cement of denial than Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.). Greenwire ($ub. req’d) reports that he flew all the way to Poland just to warn “Democrats today that they will lose their congressional majorities in 2010 if they try to pass a significant global warming bill along the lines of what President-elect Barack Obama promised during the campaign.”
Aside from the senseless self-destructiveness of Sensenbrenner’s blanket opposition to serious climate action, the Congressman is apparently unaware of the fact that no climate bill proposed to date kicks in before 2012 — and he is the former Chairman of the House Science Committee! But that doesn’t stop him from ranting about the imminent and dire consequences of trying to pass legislation to avoid the not-so-imminent but infinitely more dire consequences of inaction:
“This is not politically sustainable,” said Sensenbrenner, a 15-term lawmaker from the wealthy Milwaukee suburbs. “There’s no parliamentarian in a freely elected national parliament that can tell his voters that these types of increases in energy commodities are good for them. That’s one sure ticket for them to be voted out of office in the next election.”
Sensenbrenner insisted he would support more moderate climate policies that focus on deploying new, low-carbon energy technologies. But legislation Democrats hope to move during Obama’s first two years in office — which Sensenbrenner dubbed “cap and tax” — would not fit that description.
Everybody on the right has the Luntz playbook down pat:
“As a partisan Republican, if people on the other side of the aisle want to push a doubling or tripling of electric bills and $10-a-gallon gas, I can guarantee you that the Republicans may very well be in the majority after the 2010 election,” said Sensenbrenner, the ranking Republican on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.
Sorry, oh senseless one, you can talk about how progressives want to raise electricity rates, since that is an inevitable outcome of a significant carbon price. But we are all about keeping electricity bills low through the use of energy efficiency. As for $10 gas, it won’t happen because of a carbon price, but it will happen if we don’t embrace the kind of real energy and climate policy you have always bitterly opposed.
Obama supports cap-and-trade legislation that would return U.S. emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 — roughly a 16 percent cut from current levels — with a long-term 2050 goal of curbing greenhouse gases by 80 percent from a 1990 baseline. House and Senate Democratic leaders have said they will follow the incoming administration’s lead on the issue, but they have not given a specific timetable for marking up legislation.
Spokesmen for Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) didn’t return e-mail requests for comment about Sensenbrenner’s comments. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) declined comment.
In Washington, one of the Senate’s chief proponents of cap-and-trade, California Democrat Barbara Boxer, ridiculed Sensenbrenner’s comments. “He was predicting they’d make gains last election, too,” she said.
In Poznan, an aide to Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) rejected Sensenbrenner’s suggestion that voters would punish supporters of global warming legislation. “We’re going to be growing our economy, not killing our economy,” the Carper aide said.
The International Energy Agency, which advises 28 of the world’s leading economies on energy, similarly told delegates here that the economic downturn should not deter countries from making progress in curbing greenhouse gas emissions by putting a price on carbon.
“The global economic slowdown must be viewed as an opportunity, not a distraction from efforts to mitigate climate change,” said IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka in a statement.
Tanaka urged countries to invest their economic stimulus funds in a “clean energy new deal” and energy efficiency. “By adopting new energy efficiency measures, constructing green energy infrastructure and taking steps to integrate cleaner energy into the power grids, governments can lock in sustainable technologies and reduce CO2 emissions by almost 40 percent relative to the projected baseline emissions for 2030,” Tanaka said.
For his part, Sensenbrenner brushed aside the argument that cap-and-trade legislation would spark a rapid growth in new U.S. industries and stimulate the economy through “green-collared” jobs. Numerous witnesses have testified about the potential for economic growth from climate policies in front of Sensenbrenner’s committee.
“I think they’re just flat-out wrong,” he said. “What is now in a recession in the United States, in my opinion, will end up being a depression … Higher taxes always mean fewer jobs.”
Sensenbrenner also said he doubted claims that Chinese industries would outpace U.S. manufacturers for renewable-energy equipment and corner that market if the United States does not move soon to adopt more environmentally friendly policies on global warming.
“Anybody that thinks people are going to have a lot of faith in the quality of Chinese goods ought to talk to toy manufacturers or toy importers or drug importers with all the problems they’ve had in goods imported from China recently,” he said.
Yes, oh senseless one, the Chinese are really lousy at making things. That’s why we have such a mammoth and growing trade deficit in manufactured goods with them. Seriously, where does the GOP come up with these people?
I repeat the incredible fact that he is the former Chairman of the House Science Committee. And he doesn’t know that the “China is on track to lead the global wind market in annual installations by 2011” [PDF] and is rapidly catching up on solar PV.
I suppose it is not possible to be more stagnant than other people literally, but Sensenbrenner is certainly among the most stagnant guys you’ll ever meet figuratively. He isn’t a giant among men — he is a statue among men.
This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.