Tom Harkin is right

Senator Tom Harkin was right to warn in a conference call with reporters today that the economic stimulus bill may be too small.

He is also right to be concerned about the tax-cut provisions. Tax cuts that put more money into the hands of people in high income brackets (such as fixing the alternative minimum tax) will not necessarily boost consumer spending.

He is right about this too:

Harkin said the bill must be seen as more than an immediate jump-start for the ailing economy, and therefore lawmakers should not be timid about its potential.

“This is not just a stimulus bill to put someone to work right now,” Harkin said. “That’s important and we will do that. But we are also going to do things that lay the groundwork for a solid recovery in the future.”

Harkin wants the bill to put more money into renewable fuels and less money into so-called “clean coal”:

“We’re putting money into clean coal technology,” he said. “There’s no such thing.”

You said it, senator.

Speaking of how there’s no such thing as clean coal, if you click here you’ll find another clever ad from the Reality Coalition.

Speaking of senators who are right about things, Here’s John Kerry on the stimulus:

Reacting to Wednesday night’s vote in the House – where not a single GOP member supported the stimulus package – Kerry told Politico that “if Republicans aren’t prepared to vote for it, I don’t think we should be giving up things, where I think the money can be spent more effectively.”

“If they’re not going to vote for it, let’s go with a plan that we think is going to work.”

The Massachusetts Democrat and 2004 presidential candidate suggested tossing some of the tax provisions in the stimulus that the GOP requested. “Those aren’t job creators immediately, and even in the longer term they’re not necessarily. We’ve seen that policy for the last eight years,” he said.

What was that thing Americans voted for in November? Oh yeah, change.

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Emperor "Clean Coal" has no clothes

A Siegel has a great diary up on a new television advertising campaign launched by the “Reality Coalition” today to convey this message: “In reality, there’s no such thing as clean coal.” I love the use of humor in the ad:

After the jump, I’ve posted the whole press release issued by the Reality Coalition. You can sign up to join their effort by clicking here.

My only concern about this message is that it suggests greenhouse-gas emissions are the only thing that makes coal “dirty.” Coal-fired power plants are not only a major source of carbon-dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming, they are also one of the leading sources of fine particulate matter linked to asthma and other respiratory problems. This fine particulate matter, also known as particulate matter 2.5, “is much smaller in size and a more serious health hazard” than larger soot particles known as particulate matter 10.

Even if greenhouse gases and all other pollutants emitted by coal-fired power plants could be controlled, coal mining itself would still create adverse environmental impacts. Making coal “clean” would require a lot more than capturing the carbon emissions.

Quibbles aside, I think this commercial is outstanding and look forward to more from the Reality Coalition.

I hope that future advertising will directly combat the coal industry’s claim that we need new coal plants to meet future demand for electricity. In April, Iowa regulators approved Alliant’s application to build a new coal-fired power plant near Marshalltown, and later explained that they did so because they think renewable energy sources will not be sufficient to meet Iowa’s base-load electricity needs in the future.

The environmental movement needs to convince not only the public but also policy-makers from Barack Obama down to state-level regulators that Al Gore’s vision of ending our reliance on carbon-based fuels is realistic.

UPDATE: A commenter at MyDD pointed me to a recent report from Greenpeace called The True Cost of Coal. It contains much more information about health and environmental hazards associated with mining and burning coal.  

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