corncobCorn: more important than climate? I’ve been reporting on it for a while, but now it’s reaching fever pitch: Big Ag is getting downright jittery about climate change legislation.

There’s no mystery about why: industrial agriculture spews out massive amounts of greenhouse gas. Any serious scheme for reckoning with climate change will deal harshly with Big Ag. So Big Ag will work to make any climate legislation as non-serious as possible.

House Ag chair Collin Peterson (D.-Minn.) has been shrieking for days now (here and here) about the EPA’s recent proposed rules on the greenhouse gas footprint of ethanol, Big Ag’s pet government project. He’s been threatening to derail Waxman-Markey unless the EPA completely backs off.

Now, according to an article in The Hill, Peterson is widening his jihad. He wants de facto veto power over Waxman-Markey’s content before it ever leaves the energy committee. And if he doesn’t get it, he vows that all 26 Democratic reps who serve on his committee will vote against the bill, a potentially lethal blow. Here is The Hill:

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Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn.), the outspoken Democratic chairman of the Agriculture panel, has been making it well-known that he wants his committee to have full jurisdictional authority over whatever climate change bill emerges from Chairman Henry Waxman’s (D-Calif.) Energy and Commerce Committee. [Emphasis added.]

Declaring “We’ve thrown a pitchfork in the sand,” Peterson wants “wants a full markup to alter what he and other [ag] committee Democrats think are inadequate provisions on everything from fuel standards to renewable energy definitions to regulations governing the trading of carbon derivatives created through a cap-and-trade system,” The Hill reports.

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Mind you, it isn’t as though Waxman and Markey ever intended for their bill to penalize industrial ag for its GHG emissions; ag has been exempted from penalty since the start of the debate. It’s just that Peterson wants to ensure that, for the foreseeable future, any cap-and-trade scheme will reward industrial ag for spectral GHG sequestration, and not penalize it for its all-too-real GHG emissions. And the federal government’s massive and wide-ranging support for corn ethanol, treated by the Minnesota rep as if Moses had decreed it as the Eleventh Commandment, must never be questioned, greenhouse-gas footprint be damned. Peterson is blatantly and publicly trying to rig the game before it starts.

And it looks like he’ll succeed — the Democrats who sit on his committee will be relatively easy to align against the climate bill. Here is The Hill:

[T]he Agriculture Committee is loaded with vulnerable and freshman Democrats–those members who most fear Republican attacks on what the GOP has labeled a “cap-and-tax” bill. Eleven freshmen sit on the Agriculture Committee, and seven of them are in competitive reelection races, according to The Cook Political Report, which handicaps House and Senate contests. All of Cook’s three Democratic “toss-ups”–Reps. Bobby Bright (Ala.), Walt Minnick (Idaho) and Frank Kratovil (Md.)–sit on the Agriculture Committee.

There’s a growing debate among greens about whether Waxman-Markey is worth supporting. If Peterson and his band of Big Ag crusaders get their paws on it, it’s only going to become more compromised and friendly to dirty industries.