Coal Tattoo

Senate set to vote on blocking EPA climate action

There should be some interesting action today in the U.S. Senate, where lawmakers will be considering a variety of efforts to block the Obama administration from pursuing actions to try to curb global warming.

UPDATED: It looks like votes on this issue may not come until Thursday.

West Virginia’s Sen. Jay Rockefeller is a key player in the drama, with his amendment — to an unrelated small business bill — to block any U.S. Environmental Protection Agency action on greenhouse gas emissions for two years.

Sen. Rockefeller is trying to portray himself as a moderate in this debate, noting that he isn’t supporting all-out efforts to dismantle EPA and the Clean Air Act altogether. And in fact, he’s been under attack in an advertising campaign by a group called “The Committee for Truth in Politics“:

This group is upset that Sen. Rockefeller isn’t supporting S. 482, the bill by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., for a longer-term block on any EPA regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

If it’s hard to follow exactly what Sen. Rockefeller’s position on all of this is, well, that’s understandable. On the one hand, Sen. Rockefeller gives totally misleading speeches about coal and climate change and supports a bill that basically overturns the overwhelming scientific consensus about global warming. On the other hand, Sen. Rockefeller gives a speech encouraging the coal industry not to fight to protect the “status quo“:

… My greater fear is that we will win some of the battles and yet still lose the war. We must up our game.

We have to increase the intensity of our effort to find solutions to coal’s challenges — not just fight the issue of the day, and certainly not get bogged down in rhetorical games or bickering over side issues.

If we spend even half our time fighting for the status quo, we will be left behind.

Even then, though, Sen. Rockefeller is an unapologetic cheerleader for and defender of coal:

We know that this nation cannot and will not prosper without coal, either today or any time in the future.

The decline of coal is not inevitable — there are just as many factors working for us as against us.

It would be interesting to see exactly what Sen. Rockefeller’s own version of a climate and energy bill would look like … what specifically would he do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? But what generally we see happening is the senator working against any legislation or regulations anybody else comes up with to try to deal with the problem.

Of course, we also have West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who has signed onto the amendment proposed by Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky for a permanent ban on any EPA action on climate change.

Polluters have launched a major anti-EPA blitz, as the Wonk Room explains here, and President Obama’s big speech today on energy is expected to focus more on increasing fossil fuel production — including the president’s standard nod to “clean coal” — as Climate Progress explains here.

Meanwhile, it’s almost certain that this decade will be the warmest one on record, and the United States has slipped into 3rd place in the global clean energy race, behind China and Germany …