Legislation to address global climate change squeezed through the U.S. House in June, but action in the Senate has been postponed, and farm interests remain divided on the issue.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing in early July, but no bill has yet been introduced in the Upper Chamber. After the hearing, Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said she won't be able to meet her self-imposed deadline of passing a bill out of committee by early August, and delayed further discussion until after Congress returns from summer recess after Labor Day. Boxer insisted the Senate will still be able to pass the bill before the end of the calendar year, but wouldn't guarantee it will be reconciled with the House version and delivered to President Obama before he meets with other world leaders at a global warming summit this December in Copenhagen.
The House bill passed 219-212 with a big assist from Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN), who brokered a deal with the lead sponsors that would create a role for agriculture in the bill’s “cap-and-trade” program. The legislation calls for a 17 percent reduction from a 2005 baseline of emissions thought to contribute to global warming by 2020; further out, the targets are 42 percent by 2030 and 83 percent by 2050. Industries that want to maintain higher emission levels would have to buy credits from others whose operations remove carbon from the atmosphere; under Peterson’s amendment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would oversee a program that would grant those credits to farmers, ranchers and forestland owners whose conservation improvements since 2001 produce carbon savings. The compromise also prevents EPA from using “indirect land use” to disqualify U.S. biofuels processors from use mandates; the agency has ruled U.S. biofuel incentives encourage increased crop production, and reduce carbon savings, here and in foreign countries.
Conservative Democrats joined most House Republicans in voting against the bill. Jeff Windett, executive vice president of the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, said he does not see a single redeeming factor in the House bill. “I think they’ve overestimated the amount of contribution to greenhouse gas emissions that agriculture is responsible for,” Windett told Ozarks Farm & Neighbor, “and it hasn’t been clearly defined as to what the costs are going to be to livestock producers.” Nor, he said, did the House define how the credits in the offset program would be structured, allocated or used.
The Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri estimates the House bill would raise production costs 3.2 percent for a typical Missouri farm by 2020; FAPRI was unable to determine the impact of carbon credits.
Windett said lawmakers are in too much of a hurry to take action; at 1,500 pages, he said, he doesn’t see how any House members who voted for the bill could have read it all. And, Windett added, his group’s members don’t even buy into the need for a global warming bill. He said, “There’s conflicting stories that show that maybe the Earth is cooling, and going through a cooling cycle right now.”
Blunt and Bond weigh in at Springfield Event
“We are here today because of a proposed new energy tax. We are not supposed to call it that. We are supposed to call it Cap and Trade but it is a huge, huge tax.”
Bond shared this opinion of what is officially known as H.R. 2454: American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. The officially stated purpose of C & T, as it is often referred to, is to create clean energy jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce global warming pollution and transition to a clean energy economy.
Bond along with Congressman Roy Blunt (R-MO 7th) spoke to a group of about 100 farmers, ranchers and producers on Saturday, Aug. 1, at the Springfield Livestock Marketing Center.
Blunt shared that the 932 page version of the bill that passed the House was likely not read by many of those who voted for it. He noted several versions that were “marked up” and reviewed bore little resemblance to the one that will now be considered by the Senate.
Bond joked that “the Senate is planning a welcome for the Waxman-Markey bill.”
Both Bond and Blunt said they share serious reservations about the bill which at its most basic level tries to reduce energy usage or consumption by increasing the taxes associated with energy. The over-arching goal is to reduce global warming with coal being a primary target of restrictions.
Missouri is heavily coal dependent for energy production, deriving about 80 percent or more of its electricity from burning coal.
Both Bond and Blunt were quick to point out that they encourage alternative energy sources such as wind power, solar and bio-mass and suggest making tax credits for those investing in these type of energy, be made permanent.
But as Bond noted, attempts to restrict domestic coal usage through this bill will “have a negligible effect on the environment and carbon emissions if we do everything in the bill but China and India do nothing.”
Blunt focused on the coal-angle as well noting that the United States is the Saudi Arabia of coal. “Why we would try to figure out how not to use the thing we have the most of (coal) is the wild part of this discussion. Other countries look on their natural resources as an economic opportunity. We look at them as an environmental hazard.”
Blunt called the bill “the ultimate lose-lose as we come up with a plan to lose jobs which will go to another country which produces more emissions than we do now.”
Bond said this would mean a representative family farm in Missouri would face almost $12,000 in higher energy costs in 2020. "The more we look at it the more it will stink. People are going to see it has a lot of things to take out,” Bond said.
The entire bill before the Senate can be found by visiting www.ozarksfn.com.