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The two faces of Republicans on energy and environment

Depiction of energy conservation
Depiction of energy conservation13oldlife blogspot

Last week, the House voted overwhelmingly to pass an energy efficiency bill similar to a proposal currently floating around the Senate since last year, except the Senate bill does more.

The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act (formerly the Better Buildings Act) passed by a whopping 375 to 36. The bill pertains to energy conservation in commercial buildings and the private sector.

Ben Adler asks this question in his recent article on the bill in Grist, “So why did House Republicans do something even the most ardent environmentalists can applaud? According to the bill’s sponsors and environmental activists, there are three reasons: (1) the bill focuses on energy efficiency rather than on environmental protection as such; (2) there is no spending in the bill; and (3) the bill places no requirements on businesses."

Basically, Republicans are willing to pass laws that don’t put them in a position of having to compromise and they are dogmatic about not supporting anything that openly portends to protect the environment.

The passage of the EEIA law by the House will face amendments in the Senate that will be objectionable to Republicans, because it goes further toward actually helping the environment, says a report in the Heritage Foundation.

Meanwhile, environmentalists are applauding the House bill, even if H.R. 2126 is only a baby step.

The Natural Resources and Development Council says the bill will do the following;

  • Create a “Tenant Star” program, modeled on Energy Star, which would establish best practices for efficiency in commercial tenant spaces and set up a voluntary certification system.
  • Require federal agencies to adopt best practices to minimize electricity consumption by information technology, especially data servers.
  • Require federally leased buildings without Energy Star labels to benchmark and disclose energy usage data.

Nonetheless, House Republicans recently passed a bill blocking Obama’s linchpin Climate Action Plan rules to reduce emissions from new coal powered plants, but it faces an uphill battle in the Senate and the White House has said it would be vetoed if it were to pass.

Furthermore, this week House Republicans have renewed their attack on the Environmental Protection Agency’s rules to use the Clean Air Act to require new carbon-capture technology be included in new-plant construction.

Rules for existing coal plants that have been pumping pollution laden with hazardous toxic particulates along with dirty C02 emissions for decades will be released this summer.

According to an ABC report, Republicans rail against Obama’s so-called “War on Coal” by calling the administration’s goal of reducing coal-related emissions "one of the most extreme regulations of the Obama administration,” “[which would] make it impossible to build a new coal-fired power plant in America," said Ed Whitfield, Republican from the coal state of Kentucky.

Such hyperbole is the mainstay of every Republican argument, say critics, because adding carbon-capture technology shouldn’t be conflated with making it “impossible” to build new plants.

Moreover, there aren’t any known plans to build a single new coal-powered plant across the nation as competition from cheaper natural gas heats up.

Critics believe the GOP is a draconian, self-absorbed bunch, so unwilling to see past their own agenda that even this week’s chilling Pentagon report on the threat of climate change to national security has not bumped them from their perch on top of climate-denier cliff.

A few baby steps on the road to curbing greenhouse gases will do in the face of that or nothing, but the US needs to lead on bolder and more aggressive action to reign in the destruction, cost, toll in human lives and impacts on national security that will be brought by increasingly extreme climate anomalies.