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Paging Al Gore: Leonard Boswell needs to hear from you (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 12:03:25 PM CDT


Chris Bowers wondered yesterday at Open Left why advocates of legislation to address global warming (the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act) aren't playing hardball with Democrats who are watering down and threatening to block this bill.

By way of example, Bowers mentioned Congressman Leonard Boswell, who along with other Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee won't vote for Waxman-Markey unless the bill is amended to benefit conventional farmers. Brad Johnson of the Think Progress "Wonk Room" provides excellent background information on what the House Agriculture Committee members want to do to Waxman-Markey.

But back to Bowers' post. He points out that during last year's Democratic primary for the third Congressional district, Boswell relied heavily on Al Gore's endorsement. Boswell featured Gore's support in direct-mail campaign fliers and radio advertising. Gore also signed a fundraising appeal for Boswell's campaign, which included this passage:

Whether the issue is global warming or increasing the minimum wage, making college more affordable or expanding health care to every American, Leonard Boswell is on the frontlines of these issues.

Truthfully, Boswell has never been out in front on global warming. He voted for George Bush's awful energy bill in 2005, filled with subsidies for fossil-fuel polluters. He came late to support the Safe Climate Act in the last Congress, signing on as a co-sponsor only in December 2007, after learning that Ed Fallon was planning a primary challenge.

But that's water under the bridge. The much more serious problem is Boswell's threat to vote down Waxman-Markey, which for all its flaws is still the best climate change bill ever to have a chance of passing Congress.

Al Gore has said global warming is one of the great moral issues of our time. It's time for him and other prominent environmental advocates to lean on the House Democrats who are undermining Waxman-Markey.

On a related note, Ed and Lynn Fallon's organization I'M for Iowa sent a press release on June 16 criticizing Boswell for "failing Iowans" on climate change legislation. In a separate e-mail to supporters, the Fallons challenged Boswell to "do what Al Gore would do" and support the American Clean Energy and Security Act. I've posted both the press release and the e-mail message from I'M for Iowa after the jump.

Members of Congress also need to hear from ordinary citizens who support a strong American Clean Energy and Security Act. Iowa Interfaith Power and Light makes it easy for you to write to your representative by clicking here. Other non-profit organizations working on this issue include Iowa Global Warming, the Iowa Renewable Energy Association, the Sierra Club Iowa chapter, and the Iowa Environmental Council.

UPDATE: Boswell's spokesman Mark Daley responded with a statement explaining several areas of concern with Waxman-Markey despite Boswell's "ardent support for climate change legislation." (Let me know if you've seen evidence of this "ardent support" during the past 14 years.) I've posted the statement after the jump.

I'm not buying it for several reasons. Many people who have thoroughly studied this issue do not agree with the alleged impact this bill would have on farmers. The idea behind giving the USDA jurisdiction over the agriculture offsets is that the USDA will give farmers more offsets than the EPA would. If this is about getting more money to farmers, then I agree with Bowers that we'd be better off just handing farmers cash instead of credits.

If we want to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions from current levels, then utilities that currently rely on fossil fuels may need to do more. Boswell says this is a bias against consumers in the midwest and that the allowances for utilities should be based on "historical emissions". I am sorry that midwestern utility companies have not been more farsighted about getting away from fossil fuels, but I don't understand how Boswell's approach gets us to the solution we need, which is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Speaking more generally, no one claims the Waxman-Markey bill is ideal. I could argue that a carbon tax approach would be better than cap-and-trade, but a carbon tax isn't politically viable, so here we are. I could complain about two dozen compromises that have already been made to satisfy this or that corporate or regional interest. Ultimately, the threat global warming poses to the planet is too great to let any one group derail the whole Waxman-Markey project, as Boswell is apparently willing to do if he doesn't get his way about USDA jurisdiction. Someone who continually bragged about Al Gore's endorsement during last year's primary should be able to see the bigger picture here.

desmoinesdem :: Paging Al Gore: Leonard Boswell needs to hear from you (updated)
Statement from Congressman Boswell's office, June 16:

The US House is currently working on legislation designed to curb carbon emissions and clean air across  America. Congressman Boswell is extremely concerned about our environment and shares the goal of the legislation.  The proposed legislation is currently being crafted and a final version has yet to emerge.  Despite his ardent support for climate change legislation, the current version threatens to unfairly increase energy costs for Iowa families and others across the Midwest, while giving windfall profits to coastal energy companies.  Additionally, the legislation would greatly increase the cost of doing business for  Iowa farmers and ranchers and excludes them from being a part of the solution.

Below are the three top areas of concern with this legislation:
1 Iowa Farmers Would  Shoulder Added Costs
1 As the bill  currently reads, there is no mention of agricultural offsets; therefore,  Iowa 's  farmers will be forced to shoulder the cost of increased fuel, fertilizer  and electricity without any assistance.
2 USDA must be the agency to oversee the offset program
1 The  U.S. agriculture and forestry sectors are estimated to annually account for  6-8% of the nation's total greenhouse gas emissions but is  estimated to sequester up to 20% of their emissions.  The proposed  legislation provides no role for USDA.  As the agency responsible  for conservation and forestry programs that help with carbon  sequestration, it is critical that USDA be involved in determining  agriculture's role in any climate change proposal.  USDA must  be responsible for the agriculture offsets portion not EPA.
2 In  Iowa there are 99 USDA  Farm Service Agency county offices - the infrastructure is already  in place at USDA and not at the EPA.
3 The  50/50 Allowance Allocation Formula Would Increase Energy Costs for  Iowa Families While  Helping those on the Coasts

1 Because 50% of the  allowances a utility will receive would be based on its retail sales -  not historical emissions - the formula is heavily biased against  the Midwest and will lead to windfall profits for companies who rely less  on fossil fuels than most Midwest companies for their electrical generation. If this program is really  about reducing emissions, then the allowance formula should be based  entirely on a utility's historic emissions.  Basing 50% of the  formula on retail will result in an unfair geography tax, with consumers  in the middle of the country seeing far greater rate hikes than many on  the coasts.  All Americans should share equally in the increased  costs of combating climate change, and it is manifestly wrong to expect  certain consumers to absorb rate hikes 2 to 4 times higher than others.
 

I'M for Iowa press release of June 16:

Boswell Failing Iowans on Climate Change Bill
"Tell him to do what Al Gore would do if Gore were a member of Congress and vote for HR 2454!"

Today, Ed and Lynn Fallon challenged Congressman Leonard Boswell to "do as Al Gore would do" and support HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act. The Fallons sent out an e-mail update to 7,000 Iowans today asking them to contact Boswell's office and request his support for the legislation.

Last week, Boswell made national news saying, "As this bill stands today, I can't vote for it. I don't know of anyone else in the {House Agriculture} committee who can." The Fallons point out that Al Gore, on the other hand, recently said HR 2454 carries "the moral significance equivalent to that of the civil rights legislation of the 1960s and the Marshall Plan of the late 1940s."

Ed ran against Congressman Boswell in last year's Democratic primary for Congress, and at that time Al Gore endorsed the Congressman, lauding Boswell in one flier as being "on the front lines" to address global warming.

"Perhaps Gore hoped that his endorsement would encourage Boswell to turn over a new leaf," said Ed Fallon. "Well, last week Boswell let Al Gore down. More important, he let his constituents down. If Boswell truly wanted to be 'on the front lines' in the fight to address climate change, he would throw his weight behind HR 2454 instead of actively opposing it.

This week, Chris Bowers of Open Left wrote in a national blog post, "Boswell, along with seemingly all other Democrats on the Agriculture Committee, is hijacking climate change legislation unless it removes the EPA's authority to regulate carbon. This demand would actually be a step backward for climate change policy in the United States."

"Regrettably, Boswell's position on HR 2454 is consistent with his long history of opposition to pro-environment legislation," continued Ed. "In August of 2001, he voted against an amendment that would have raised fuel efficiency standards to 27.5 mpg. In July of 2005, he voted for $14.5 billion in tax breaks and incentives for energy companies, even though House Democrats opposed the bill 124-75. In June of 2006, he voted to end a 25-year moratorium on offshore oil drilling.

In February of 2007, he voted for an amendment to permit offshore drilling for natural gas, which House Democrats opposed 194-38.

Also in February of 2007, he signed a letter to the House Speaker and Majority Leader calling for legislation to support continued use of coal 'for decades to come.' And in July of 2007, he voted against an amendment to prevent the expediting of oil shale drilling, which House Democrats supported 202-27."

Ed and Lynn concluded their e-mail to supporters saying, "America and Iowa need Congressman Boswell to turn over a new leaf. Recent climate-change scenarios forecast even greater temperature increases, more rapid ice melt and higher sea-levels than previously predicted. Legislation such as HR 2454 is imperative. Please take a minute to contact Congressman Boswell. Tell him to do what Al Gore would do if Gore were a member of Congress and vote for the American Clean Energy and Security Act!"

Excerpt from I'M for Iowa's e-mail message to supporters on June 16:

Boswell Should Follow Gore's Lead

Dear Friends,

In last year's Democratic primary for Congress, Leonard Boswell touted his endorsement by Al Gore. In one flier, despite Boswell's long history of voting against the environment, Gore lauded Boswell for being "on the front lines" to address global warming. Perhaps Gore hoped that his endorsement would encourage Boswell to turn over a new leaf.  

Well, last week Boswell let Al Gore down. Landmark climate change legislation - HR 2454, The American Clean Energy and Security Act - is struggling to move forward in the U.S. House. Gore endorsed the bill, saying it carries "the moral significance equivalent to that of the civil rights legislation of the 1960s and the Marshall Plan of the late 1940s."  

Boswell, on the other hand, made national news saying, "As this bill stands today, I can't vote for it. I don't know of anyone else in the {House Agriculture} committee who can."  

Gore's glowing endorsement meant a lot to Boswell, and if Boswell truly wanted to be "on the front lines" in the fight to address climate change, he would throw his weight behind HR 2454.

Instead, as Open Left's Chris Bowers wrote this week, "Boswell, along with seemingly all other Democrats on the Agriculture Committee, is hijacking climate change legislation unless it removes the EPA's authority to regulate carbon. This demand would actually be a step backward for climate change policy in the United States."  

Boswell's position on HR 2454 is, regrettably, consistent with his long history of opposition to pro-environment legislation.

In August of 2001, he voted against an amendment that would have raised fuel efficiency standards to 27.5 mpg.  

In July of 2005, he voted for $14.5 billion in tax breaks and incentives for energy companies, even though House Democrats opposed the bill 124-75.

In June of 2006, he voted to end a 25-year moratorium on offshore oil drilling.  

In February of 2007, he voted for an amendment to permit offshore drilling for natural gas, which House Democrats opposed 194-38.  

Also in February of 2007, he signed a letter to the House Speaker and Majority Leader calling for legislation to support continued use of coal "for decades to come."  

And in July of 2007, he voted against an amendment to prevent the expediting of oil shale drilling, which House Democrats supported 202-27.  

America and Iowa need Congressman Boswell to turn over a new leaf. New climate-change scenarios show even greater temperature increases, more rapid ice melt and higher sea-levels than previously expected. Legislation such as HR 2454 is imperative.  

PLEASE TAKE A COUPLE MINUTES TO CONTACT CONGRESSMAN BOSWELL AT (202) 225-3806 OR (515) 282-1909, OR BY E-MAIL AND TELL HIM TO DO WHAT AL GORE WOULD DO IF GORE WERE A MEMBER OF CONGRESS: SUPPORT THE AMERICAN CLEAN ENERGY AND SECURITY ACT!  

Ed & Lynn Fallon

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VAT is a total non-starter (0.00 / 0)
Not a chance.

In the long term, Iowa farmers will be better off if we are able to avoid the worst-case scenario with global warming (which would cause more frequent droughts around these parts). But by then, Boswell won't be around. And you're right, when the economy is tough, short-term thinking prevails.

It's disappointing that the Clinton administration wasn't able to get anything accomplished on global warming before we dug ourselves so much deeper in the hole.

Invite other Iowa political junkies to join us at Bleeding Heartland.


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