The breaking news in Iowa politics this afternoon is Senator Tom Harkin “officially” endorsing Representative Bruce Braley for U.S. Senate. Why this is supposed to be newsworthy, I can’t explain.
The under-the-radar but more important news is that during a meeting of the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week, Braley joined conservative Democrats and all the Republicans to vote for H.R. 3, a bill mandating approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. An Energy and Commerce Committee press release explaining the purpose of this bill is after the jump.
For now let’s leave aside the many environmental arguments against building the Keystone XL pipeline, and the big problems with the State Department’s draft environmental impact statement on the project.
Braley is smart enough to know that Keystone XL won’t create the thousands of jobs proponents claim. In fact, the pipeline is more likely to increase than decrease gasoline prices in the Midwest. Maybe Braley’s longstanding support for Keystone XL is a gesture toward the labor unions that support the project, or maybe it’s more convenient to vote for fake jobs than to explain why the jobs propaganda is wrong. Most of the House Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee oppose this bill. Braley’s companions, aside from the committee Republicans, were John Barrow of Georgia, Gene Green of Texas, and Jim Matheson of Utah. They aren’t pro-labor but have extremely poor voting records on the environment, a lot worse than Braley’s.
Harkin has always been a strong supporter of organized labor, but he didn’t let that cloud his judgment on Keystone XL. He has voted against that project repeatedly, most recently during the Senate’s federal budget “vote-o-rama” last month. Iowa will be worse off without Harkin in the Senate.
UPDATE: Corrected the second paragraph to note that Braley voted for this bill when the full Energy and Commerce Committee approved it on April 17, not during the subcommittee meeting the previous day. Corrected the fourth paragraph to note that three other House Democrats supported the bill during the full committee vote. Added more details on the case against this bill after the jump.
House Energy and Commerce Committee press release:
Committee Stands Up for Jobs and Approves Bipartisan Bill to Build Keystone XL Pipeline and Advance North American Energy Independence
April 17, 2013
H.R. 3, Which Will Soon be Considered By the Full House, Will Eliminate Roadblocks to Construction of $7 Billion Jobs and Energy Project
WASHINGTON, DC – The Energy and Commerce Committee today advanced legislation to build the Keystone XL pipeline. H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act, will put an end to years of bureaucratic delays and finally allow construction of the project that would create thousands of American jobs and displace overseas imports with millions of barrels of safe and secure Canadian oil supplies. The committee approved the measure by a bipartisan vote of 30 to 18.
H.R. 3, authored by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), will eliminate the need for a Presidential Permit and find that the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) issued by the Secretary of State on August 26, 2011, shall satisfy all NEPA requirements. The legislation addresses all other necessary federal permits and limits legal challenges that could bring further delays. Similar legislation was necessary in the 1970’s to achieve construction of the game-changing Alaska pipeline.
“My bill ends the long-drawn out process of delay-by-review and allows us to begin building the Keystone Pipeline. This issue has been studied in-depth. There are more pages of review on the Keystone Pipeline than make up The Bible, War and Peace, Atlas Shrugged, and Obamacare – combined,” said Terry. “The scientists at the State Department continue to say that there will be no significant impacts to the environment. There is no reason we should continue the delays. I urge my colleagues to join me in passing H.R. 3 so we can begin building the Keystone Pipeline.”
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) added, “The Keystone XL project is a critical component of our North American energy independence plan. The American people have waited patiently for over four-and-a-half years for Keystone’s jobs and energy supplies, and this bipartisan bill will finally end the delays of this project once and for all.”
“Many people say that this is an exercise in futility because if it passes the House it will never pass the Senate, but I would remind everyone that when the Senate adopted its budget recently, there was an amendment in support of the Keystone pipeline that was approved by a vote of 62-37, with 17 Democrats supporting it,” said Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY). “I would urge everyone to support this important bill and help America become more energy independent.”
Click HERE to view a list of letters and statements in support for the Northern Route Approval Act.
Statement from Energy and Commerce Committee ranking Democrat Henry Waxman during an April 10 subcommittee hearing on this bill.
Today, this Subcommittee is holding a hearing on legislation to make climate change worse by giving preferential treatment to TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. I believe this would be a terrible mistake.
Step outside today. The temperature is going to be around 90. The normal high temperature for April 10th in the District of Columbia is 65, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This isn’t an isolated incident. Last year alone, the United States broke or tied 34,000 high temperature records.
We know climate change is happening now, and the costs are beginning to mount. The Government Accountability Office added climate change to its high risk list, due to the huge financial exposure it poses for the United States. In 2011 and in 2012, our country experienced weather and climate disasters from Hurricane Sandy to droughts to floods to wildfires. These disasters affected our farm lands, communities across the Southwest and West, coastal areas, and other areas all over this country. And if you add up the costs of these disasters, it came to around $188 billion. These disasters aren’t over – as climate change worsens, we are going to see even more disasters in the future.
So faced with these threats from climate change, you would expect this Committee, to be holding hearings and trying to work together on legislation. But that’s not what we’re doing. We won’t even hold a hearing on the science of this issue. Look at the record of this Committee. In the last Congress, the House Republicans voted to say that climate change was a hoax. They voted 53 times to block any action on climate change. They voted to defund research. They voted to block action by the EPA to control pollution, to prevent energy efficiency measures from going into effect, and to stop the Administration from encouraging developing countries to do their part to address this serious, global issue.
This is a problem. We’ve asked the Republicans to hold a hearing with the experts, because they’ve said over and over again that the science is not clear. But they won’t bring in the scientific experts to talk about the matter.
The Republicans say we need North American energy independence. Well that’s fine, but as long as we’re dependent on oil, and as long as oil prices are set in the world market, we will be vulnerable to oil price spikes, no matter how much oil we produce at home. The real goal is to reduce our dependence on oil altogether. Thanks to President Obama’s fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, our oil use is falling. We are shifting to hybrids and electric vehicles. Still, we are going to need oil for the foreseeable future, even though we won’t need as much of it.
But why do we need to get our oil from the dirty tar sands of Canada? Just to get the tar sands out of the ground and ready to go through a pipeline takes a huge amount of energy and releases a lot of carbon pollution. This is some of the dirtiest oil in the world, so it makes no sense for us to rush to use more of it. And if we do not agree to import this tar sands oil, Canada won’t produce as much of it because they face big difficulties getting it to market.
Some say that if we don’t take the tar sands, Canada will send it to China. But they can’t get it to the West coast of Canada to take it to China. Instead, they want to take it through the United States in a pipeline, with America bearing all the risks of spills, and then bring it to the Gulf of Mexico, where it will likely be exported anyway.
Pipeline supporters say that because there is demand for oil, the oil will be produced. So whether or not we build Keystone XL, they say, oil companies will expand production in the tar sands. Market economics actually tells us that the most competitive oil will be produced. Tar sands oil is expensive to extract, land-locked, and highly polluting. Producers are already facing lower prices for their product because of transportation constraints. Absent the Keystone XL pipeline, getting tar sands to market will cost more, and tar sands will be less competitive with the alternatives. Those alternatives now include a lot more U.S. shale oil from the Bakken and other areas.
So I think it would be a big mistake to agree to the tar sands pipeline. But this decision is under consideration right now by the State Department. Rather than let them make a deliberate decision, this Committee would like to legislate a special earmark to approve this particular project. No other project is going to get this special treatment. In this Committee, the oil people get special treatment. Those who worry about climate change don’t even get a chance to be heard from.
Our job is to do something about serious problems that are going to affect the future of our country, our children, and our grandchildren. This Committee is absent without leave on the issue of climate change.
A report released this week analyzed the “true climate impact” of Keystone XL and found, among other things:
– The 181 million metric tons of (CO2e) from Keystone XL is equivalent to the tailpipe emissions from more than 37.7 million cars. This is more cars than are currently registered on the entire West Coast (California, Washington, and Oregon), plus Florida, Michigan, and New York – combined.
– Between 2015 and 2050, the pipeline alone would result in emissions of 6.34 billion metric tons of CO2e. This amount is greater than the 2011 total annual carbon dioxide emissions of the United States.