Collin Peterson: 'Mixing Climate Change Together with Energy Independence' Isn't Smart

Posted by Wonk Room Sun, 14 Jun 2009 10:29:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Collin PetersonIn an agricultural hearing Thursday, committee chair Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) offered a withering critique of the comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation under consideration by the House of Representatives. Peterson, a conservative Blue Dog Democrat, attacked the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) for including both clean energy and global warming pollution standards:

My big problem is that they are mixing climate change together with energy independence. I don’t think that is smart.

Peterson, like other skeptics of action on climate change, does not want Congress to consider the entire lifecycle of energy use. Others, including Vice President Al Gore, have argued our energy and climate crises are “linked by a common thread – our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels.”

Strongly supported by corporate agriculture contributors, Peterson is attempting to alter Waxman-Markey to limit regulations of agriculture subsidies.

By replacing petroleum, biofuels have the potential to dramatically reduce global warming pollution. But scientists have found biofuels can also worsen global warming by encouraging farmers to cut down the diversity-rich tropical forests that soak up carbon dioxide. Similarly, farmers may be able to trap more carbon in soil and plants through changes in agricultural practices, allowing them to sell billions of dollars of “offsets” in a carbon cap-and-trade market. But experts such as Joseph Romm of the Center for American Progress have explained that poorly regulated offsets are little more than worthless subsidies.

The Environmental Protection Agency is considering the global warming consequences of biofuel production as it develops new renewable fuels standards. Similarly, Waxman-Markey would put the EPA Administrator and an independent scientific board in charge of devising the rules for agricultural offsets to maintain their integrity. Peterson’s response:
A lot of us on the Committee do not want the EPA near our farms. And, I don’t think you are going to get any type of a bill through Congress, whatever the administration wants, that is going to have that system, for whatever it is worth.
At Grist, Tom Philpott responds to Peterson:
The current version of Waxman-Markey contains almost no language on agriculture. (As I’ve written before, agriculture is exempt from any cap on greenhouse-gas emissions.) But farming projects would still be eligible for offsets through an offsets-review board that the legislation would set up within the EPA. Big Ag isn’t content with that arrangement. In the coming days, the game will be to insert specific language around ag offsets into the legislationand promote a certification process developed by Big Ag itself.

For weeks, Peterson has threatened to block Waxman-Markey if his demands are not met. It appears that he’s in the driver’s seat.