Monday, November 19, 2012

A Bill to Prohibit Action on Reducing GHG Emissions

It seemed to surprise a lot of people when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg endorsed Barack Obama for president in the final weeks of the 2012 Presidential Campaign. Bloomberg said that Hurricane Sandy had reshaped his thinking about the campaign. Although he wasn’t entirely enthusiastic about the incumbent president’s record on climate change, he felt that Obama was far more likely to take on the issue in his second term than Mitt Romney would in his first, or ever, for that matter. 

“Our climate is changing,” Bloomberg wrote. “And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”

Last summer, Bloomberg voiced his opposition to big coal. "If we are going to get serious about reducing our carbon footprint in the United States, we have to get serious about coal, " Bloomberg said. "Ending coal power production is the right thing to do, because while it may seem to be an inexpensive energy source the impact on our environment and the impact on public health is significant.  Coal is a self-inflicted public health risk, polluting the air we breathe, adding mercury to the water we drink and the leading cause of climate disruption.”

As evidence that he is serious, Bloomberg announced that his philanthropic foundation was giving $50 million over the next four years to help the Sierra Club expand it's "Beyond Coal" campaign. The money will allow the Sierra Club to expand its anti-coal campaign from 15 states to 45.  Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, said,”Our goal is to use this money to retire one-third of the coal plants in operation America today."

Alas, during the second presidential debate, Romney and Obama argued over who was the biggest supporter of coal. Yikes! As I’ve written previously, “No one following climate change developments could take any joy from the exchange, especially those fearing the earth is already experiencing what would be its sixth mass extinction.”

So, have Republicans changed their minds about the need for action on climate change after Sandy took a big bite out of the Big Apple and Jersey Shores? Hardly. Congressional Republicans have pushed a bill, S.1956, that would, “prohibit operators of civil aircraft of the United States from participating in the European Union's [greenhouse gas - GHG] emissions trading scheme.” The bill’s sponsor is South Dakota Republican, John Thune, whose state is one of the few in the nation that allows the statewide use of conventional motor gasoline. Unfortunately, this bill seems to have the support of the Administration, which objects to the EU’s “unilateral” action to combat climate change.

If the rest of the world expects the United States of America to take the lead on a global initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they have sorely underestimated the influence the fossil fuel industry has on US energy policy. In the meantime, expect the US to oppose anything that smacks of "unilateralism" on climate change.

Too bad. For all of us.

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