Congressional Candidates' Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: IA-03

Originally posted on The MarkUp. This is the eleventh article in a continuing series by the NRDC Action Fund on the environmental stances of candidates in key races around the country.

 

Today, we examine Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, stretching from Des Moines to the Cedar Falls-Waterloo area.  The district’s economy is heavily agricultural, but also has a large financial and insurance sector component, with Des Moines referred to as “the Hartford of the West” for that reason.  Since 1997, Democrat Leonard Boswell has represented the 3rd congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives.  This year, Boswell is being challenged by Republican State Senator Brad Zaun.

 

So far in this campaign, Boswell has strongly defended his record and has attacked Zaun for “his opposition to Iowa's biofuels industry, which employs thousands of farmers and factory workers in the state.” For his part, Zaun has attempted to tie Boswell to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama, while running a series entitled, “Fourteen Reasons Why We Need a New Congressman.”

 

On clean energy and environmental issues, Rep. Boswell has an excellent record.  In 2009, for instance, Boswell received a near-perfect 93% rating from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), as well as a 100% rating from Environment America. Boswell voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), an extraordinarily important piece of environmental legislation which the New York Times described as “the first time either house of Congress had approved a bill meant to curb the heat-trapping gases scientists have linked to climate change.” At the time of his vote for ACES, Boswell said that the legislation  “would harness the most innovative workforce in the world to create a clean energy future, creating millions of jobs in the process.”  Boswell added that “[e]nergy independence is vital to our national security and economic future, and this legislation advances this goal while confronting the serious challenge of climate change.”

 

For his part, Brad Zaun received a mediocre rating of 42% on the environment from the Iowa Sierra Club in 2009-2010.  In this video, Zaun declares, “I question global warming” and claims – incorrectly – that ACES will “cost businesses and all of us that have homes millions of dollars.”  In addition, Zaun claims that coal-fired power is far more economical than wind power (certainly not true if you count environmental and other “externalities”), brags that he’s being “compared to this one lady that says ‘drill, baby, drill,’” and argues that “we need to take advantage of our resources.”  On his website under “Energy and Natural Resources,” Zaun argues that America “must increase domestic oil and gas supply by exploring and utilizing more of the energy resources we have at home.” Message to Brad Zaun: we saw the results of that approach in the Gulf of Mexico this past summer!

 

On the other hand, Zaun has not joined most of his fellow Republican candidates this year and signed the Americans for Prosperity “No Climate Tax Pledge.”  Zaun also advocates “exploring alternative sources of energy…including nuclear, wind, solar and other alternative energies.” And, Zaun says, “We must be careful stewards of all of our precious natural resources by always avoiding strategies which unnecessarily damage our landscape or environment or pose health risks to our citizens.” That’s all well and good. But advocating for coal-fired power, “drill, baby, drill,” and global warming skepticism is a very funny way to accomplish those goals.

 

The NRDC Action Fund believes that it is important for the public in general, and the voters of specific Congressional districts, be aware of this information as they weigh their choices for November.

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Pull the plug on the climate change bill

Few problems require federal action more urgently than global warming. I admire the members of Congress who have been trying to address this issue. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman tried to get the best deal he could. Senator John Kerry has tried to keep things moving in the upper chamber. Senator Lindsey Graham is getting tons of grief from fellow Republicans because he admits that climate change is a problem.

I want to support these people and their efforts to get a bill on the president’s desk. Unfortunately, the time has come to accept that Congress is too influenced by corporate interests to deal with climate change in any serious way. Pretending to fight global warming won’t solve the problem and may even be counter-productive.

This depressing post continues after the jump.

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Steve King "distinguishes" himself again

Congressman Steve King showed us again on Tuesday why Esquire magazine named him one of the 10 Worst members of Congress last year. It wasn’t his hyperbole regarding the American Clean Energy and Security Act (which in King’s view “will cost millions of Americans their jobs.”) Lots of Congressional Republicans are making equally ridiculous claims.

On Tuesday King distinguished himself as the only member of the U.S. House to vote against placing “a marker acknowledging the role that slave labor played in constructing the Capitol” in a “prominent location in the visitor center’s Emancipation Hall.” This was not a partisan resolution; 399 members of Congress voted yes, including certifiable wingnuts such as Minnesota’s Michele Bachmann.

King released a statement explaining his vote, and I’m posting it after the jump in case other Bleeding Heartland readers can make more sense out of it than I can. He claims the resolution acknowledging slave labor “was used as a bargaining chip” in negotiations over a Republican-sponsored resolution “Directing the Architect of the Capitol to engrave the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and the National Motto of ‘In God We Trust’ in the Capitol Visitor Center.” King objects:

Our Judeo-Christian heritage is an essential foundation stone of our great nation and should not be held hostage to yet another effort to place guilt on future Americans for the sins of some of their ancestors.

Reading King’s statement reminded me of Esquire’s observation:

King believes himself to be clever, and his list of idiot declarations is probably the longest in Washington.

Maybe someone else can find logic in King’s vote on Tuesday. As far as I’m concerned, and I have said this before, he’s like school in the summertime: no class.

UPDATE: Iowa Democratic Party chair Michael Kiernan released the following statement on Thursday:

   “Iowans have a rich history of embracing diversity and of leading the nation in support of civil rights for African Americans. Years before the Civil War, Iowa Courts determined there would be no place for slavery in our state. Nearly a century before ‘Separate But Equal’ was deemed unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court, we in Iowa desegregated our schools, opening opportunities for children and families without regard to race. And in the years since, our elected officials and courts have protected these rights, which we hold so dear. This is a tradition we can be proud of.

   But Congressman Steve King has flown in the face of our history of inclusion, and of progress. This vote is an embarrassment to his constituents, and to Iowa. Congressman King has once again showed that he is out of touch with Iowa values, and he must be held accountable for this vote. Iowans deserve better.”

SECOND UPDATE: King spoke with Radio Iowa about his reasons for casting this vote.

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Farm Bureau confident climate change bill going nowhere

A friend sent me an e-mail she received from the Iowa Farm Bureau. Excerpt:

Mary Kay Thatcher, AFBF director of public policy, tells Agriculture Online that Farm Bureau doesn’t anticipate the massive climate change bill passed by the House last week to pass the Senate this year.

And the New York Times reported Tuesday that opposition from Farm Bureau and other agricultural groups threatens to kill the bill in the Senate. The Times reports that groups such as AFBF wield greater clout in the Senate, because members there must be protective of an entire state, rather than a small congressional district.

Here are the links to the Agriculture Online piece and the New York Times article.

The American Farm Bureau Federation lobbied members of the U.S. House to vote for Collin Peterson’s lousy amendments to the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act but against the bill intended to address climate change.

I have my own problems with the ACES bill, especially the deals made to appease the coal industry and Peterson’s colleagues on the House Agriculture Committee. That said, the objections big agribusiness and their Congressional allies have raised against the cap-and-trade approach are off-base and short-sighted.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Farm Bureau’s vote-counter is correct and the Senate rejects the Waxman-Markey bill for the wrong reasons. Frankly, that might be better than letting senators like Claire McCaskill of Missouri make this flawed bill even worse.

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Climate bill passes House, Iowans split on party lines (updated)

The Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) barely passed the U.S. House of Representatives on a 219-212 vote today. As you can see from the roll call, Iowa Democrats Bruce Braley (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Leonard Boswell (IA-03) voted for the bill, while Republicans Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05) voted against.

King claimed ACES “could be the most colossal mistake ever made in the history of the United State Congress.”

Latham brought a big box to the House chamber, with the label “TO: CHINA. FROM: The U.S. CONGRESS.” Inside the box was a hardhat labeled “American jobs.”

What a joke. The ACES bill should create jobs, although it would have created a lot more if it contained better renewable energy targets.

According to Populista, only three House Democrats voted against ACES because it was too weak, while 41 voted against it because it was supposedly too strong, even with all the compromises made to placate regional and corporate interests. I have to agree with Ezra Klein: “our political process has gone into total system failure and the overriding priority is building the long-term case for structural reform of America’s lawmaking process”.

UPDATE: Congressman Braley issued the following statement after the Waxman-Markey bill passed:

“This landmark energy bill will create thousands of clean energy jobs in Iowa, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and take a big step forward toward tackling climate change.  This represents a huge new investment in renewable energy in the United States.  While this bill is far from perfect, it does include provisions that help consumers and exempt agriculture.  The bottom line is that we need to act now to address our nation’s energy problems and create jobs.”

Congressman Loebsack issued a longer statement, which I’ve posted after the jump. The key point relates to an amendment Loebsack was able to get in the ACES bill:

Congressman Loebsack’s amendment to the bill will amend the Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) program so that building owners receiving disaster assistance can use the disaster assistance funds to leverage additional or matching funds to make energy efficient improvements to their homes and businesses. The REEP program provides funding to improve energy efficiency in homes and buildings. Congressman Loebsack’s amendment will maximize the benefits of the REEP program for disaster victims by helping Iowa homes become more energy efficient. It would also require that FEMA make information available to disaster victims that the REEP program is available for them to make energy efficiency improvements post-disaster.

SECOND UPDATE: Radio Iowa has more on the theatrics from Latham and King. Republican demagoguery has reached new lows on this bill.

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