Senators say President Barack Obama is insisting that any energy legislation put a price on carbon emissions – something many Republicans call an energy tax they can’t accept.

That’s the initial brief AP story after Obama met with a bipartisan group of nearly two dozen senators today.  As Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson notes, the GOP keeps claiming “Pollution Is Energy.”

The UK Guardian pushed the status quo media’s conventional wisdom in their headline “Barack Obama fails to rally support for energy bill.”

In fact, Olympia Snowe issued a long statement endorsing a utility cap but repeating some tired myths – including the nonsensical conservative talking point that taking action on climate starting three years from now would somehow threaten the recovery, when the reverse is true (see Nobelist Krugman attacks “junk economics”: Climate action “now might actually help the economy recover from its current slump” by giving “businesses a reason to invest in new equipment and facilities”).

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Here is Snowe’s full statement:


“As I have long advocated, working toward energy independence is an imperative for our economic and national security.  Which is why today I urged the President to seize control of our own energy destiny and, for the first time, establish clearly defined national timetables for clean energy production, benchmarks for oil consumption reduction, and goals for game-changing research – which no other president has ever done, to ensure we actually attain that independence.  Central to this is moving forward with an aggressive energy bill that reorients our nation toward renewable and energy efficiency. This cannot be underestimated in literally transforming our energy supply and yielding tremendous environmental and economic benefits.  Just last year, the U.S. was a global leader in wind with 10,000 Megawatts of facilities constructed at 39 percent growth – and yet, we are in danger of losing that competitive and technological edge to China which grew its wind capacity by 100 percent last year.

“And that is why I have co-authored legislation sponsored by Senator Klobuchar that would establish a strong Renewable Energy Standard of 25 percent by 2025 and worked on the Home Star proposal with Senators Bingaman and Warner, which would provide energy efficiency rebates and long-term tax credits to build an entirely new industry in performance-based efficiency.  While there is consensus among us on energy, on the complex and difficult question of curbing greenhouse gas emissions, there is no consensus at this time. From my perspective, I’ve long asserted that placing a price on carbon will send the appropriate signals to entrepreneurs that would unleash the innovation to position America as a global clean energy industry leader.  However, today we are in different and perilous economic times with last week’s new jobless claims actually increasing by 12,000, to a total of 472,000 Americans, and the full impact of the BP spill is yet unknown.  So it’s essential that we carefully weigh the costs of action versus inaction to avoid unintended consequences that cost us jobs, as well as the distributional effects of any policy we apply and how we mitigate and equalize those effects.”

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Again, the Kerry Lieberman bill doesn’t even start until start its cap until 2013 (see “American Power Act to create millions of clean energy jobs, slash pollution and oil use, while boosting U.S. farmers and manufacturers“).

And remember, we learned from EIA in May that Energy-related CO2 emissions are now down nearly 10% from 2005 levels. So the early targets in the APA don’t even start to bite until 2016.  So this typical GOP assertion – “We’ve got to take a national energy tax off the table in the middle of a recession,” said Alexander, chairman of the Senate GOP Conference – is quite false:

Back to Snowe:

“At the same time simply we cannot afford economy-wide approaches to carbon reduction that could cost consumers another 18 cents per gallon of gasoline in this struggling economy or subject our manufacturing sector to unnecessary regulations when they’ve already reduced their emissions by five percent below 1990 levels.  And yet, we also recognize the threat of blanket and ad hoc EPA regulations that would threaten at least 1,600 major employers should we fail to act. Which is why I believe that one possibility is to more narrowly target a carbon pricing program through a uniform nationwide system solely on the power sector which is the sector with the most to lose from the EPA regulations and it’s also the sector in which businesses actually make decisions today based on prices 20 to 30 years in the future.

“The bottom line is that this should be an era of practicality given our economic situation – and whatever Congress pursues should be viewed through that prism, to develop legislation that is pragmatic, reduces uncertainty, and creates business opportunities for a carbon-free economy of the future, without further harming our economy of today.”

Senator Snowe has been a longtime advocate for advancing policies to combat global warming, with her record beginning as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives when she cosponsored the Global Warming Prevention Act more than 20 years ago.  In 2007, Senators Snowe and Feinstein spearheaded the Ten-in-Ten fuel economy standards, landmark legislation to increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, which is the single most effective US law that has addressed climate change.  The regulations based on Senator Snowe’s law were finalized this spring and will eliminate a metric Gigaton of CO2 emissions by saving 1.8 billion barrels of oil.  This Congress, Senator Snowe co-hosted the “U.S. Climate Action: A Global Economic Perspective” symposium on Capitol Hill with Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair, as well as the leaders in the business community to discuss the formulation of U.S. policy on climate change.

Well, as lame as this statement is in many respects, at least she has endorsed a bill with a carbon price.

Brad Johnson notes that most of the “GOBP Put Party Over Planet, Claim Pollution Is Energy“:

The habitability of our planet is threatened by fossil-fueled politicians who can’t tell the difference between pollution and energy. After a White House meeting on energy reform this morning, Republican senators rejected President Obama’s call for a price on carbon pollution, repeating the Newt Gingrich lie that it would be a “national energy tax”:

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN): “As long as we take a national energy tax off the table, there’s no reason we can’t have clean energy legislation.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK): “A cap-and-trade energy tax will not sell at this time. We’ve got to find a path that does not put an added burden on American taxpayers.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who refused to attend the meeting: “I wish the president would focus his attention on stopping the spill and cleaning it up instead of trying to use this crisis as an opportunity to push for a new national energy tax.”

These senators know they’re lying when they equate greenhouse gas pollution with “energy.” Their states are being ravaged by our overheated climate system, including the freak flooding of Nashville and Kentucky and the melting of Alaska’s tundra.

Murkowski is being especially disingenuous about finding a “path that does not put an added burden on American taxpayers.” Right now, American taxpayers are paying the costs of fossil fuel pollution – the destruction of our health, our oceans, and our climate – while corporate polluters like oil disaster giant BP rake in the profits.

The rhetoric of these climate peacocks who put party over planet can’t hide their track record of playing the willing stooge for pollution profiteers.

The time to act is now, and those who don’t want to act, those spread falsehoods about even the most modest climate action, must be called out.

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