The Dernogalizer

April 6, 2010

Congressman Collin Peterson is Biofool of the Year

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 4:53 pm
Tags: , ,

This was done by Friends of the Earth!

press release

Congressman recognized for to giving billions in subsidies to dirty and inefficient biofuel companies

Washington, D.C. Congressman Collin Peterson, chairman of the powerful House Agriculture Committee, prevailed against tough competition to receive Friends of the Earth’s annual Biofool of the Year award, which was delivered to his office on Monday.

With almost 2,300 votes, Chairman Peterson was the clear winner amongst the five nominees. His past Biofoolery includes: demanding that the EPA stop factoring deforestation into environmental impact assessments of biofuels, trying to exempt dirty biofuels from key global warming standards, and trying to open forests and natural areas for biofuels exploitation.

Friends of the Earth Energy Policy Campaigner Kate McMahon had the following comment:

“It is no surprise that Rep. Peterson won the Biofool of the Year award.Over the past year, he has consistently attacked safeguards against pollution from biofuels despite overwhelming evidence that today’s biofuels are bad for the environment and contribute to food insecurity.”

Peterson is currently co-sponsoring H.R. 4940, which extends billions of dollars in tax credits to oil companies for conventional corn ethanol production, despite scientific analysis indicating that corn ethanol creates more greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline. Corn ethanol also contributes to water pollution, habitat destruction, soil erosion and health issues from pesticide and herbicide use.

Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica joined McMahon to present Congressman Peterson with a certificate, a congratulatory petition signed by over 700 people, and a celebratory can of corn. A video of the presentation is available at:

Friends of the Earth’s annual Biofool of the Year Award was established to recognize leaders that promote dirty biofuels. The 2009 winner was Hugh Grant of Monsanto.

June 21, 2009

Reforming Agriculture

I read a very good column in the NY Times about the linkage between our industrial agriculture system and our health care costs.  It’s no secret that a lot of the food we eat isn’t good for us and leads to a lot of the health problems which are responsible for a good chunk of our health care costs.  I remember back in elementary school when I bought lunch at my school cafeteria, and the food was very greasy, and never healthy.  In middle school and high school the food was so unhealthy I just brought a lunch every day.  There’s also the impact it has on our greenhouse gas emissions.  There’s also the effect on climate legislation, as a single bought out Chair Collin Peterson of the Agriculture Committee in the House has been able to delay, and possibly derail the Waxman-Markey climate bill.  One part of the column which sums it up is

“Agribusiness companies exercise huge political influence, and industry leaders often fill regulatory posts. The Food and Drug Administration consequently dozed, and the number of food safety inspections plunged.”

Despite a desire by the Obama administration to move away from the disaster that’s corn ethanol towards more sustainable and logical biofuels, farm state lawmakers have been fighting them like hell, even though incentives for corn ethanol production is clearly terrible policy.  As a concession, 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol already produced are being “grandfathered in”, and the farm state legislators are still complaining, which is one of the reasons Collin Peterson is causing trouble with the climate legislation.  This experience with the sway big agriculture has on Congress raises doubts on whether reforming the industrial agriculture system is even possible.  From an emissions standpoint, farmers have shown they can cut cows greenhouse gas emissions for no additional cost simply by altering their diet.  Simply using more efficient machinery and powering those systems with more clean energy would go a long way.  It would also be a good idea to produce fruit and vegetables using methods which require less pesticides such as integrated pest management, less water such as using drip irrigation.  If you want to see some thought provoking videos that shows the state of our food system, I’d recommend King Corn, or the new documentary Food Inc.

Also interesting is the positive role agriculture could have on addressing global warming if done right.  In one of my posts titled “8 Reasons for Farmers to Support Waxman-Markey”, this was one of the reasons listed:

“U.S. agricultural and forest lands sequester 246 million metric tons of carbon annually, absorbing 13 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. With the appropriate incentives these lands could ultimately absorb 50 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. H.R. 2454 promotes U.S. agricultural lands as a carbon sink by encouraging low tillage practices, tree and perennial planting, erosion prevention, rotational grazing, agricultural carbon offsets, and a market for carbon sequestration.”

It does seem to be a heavy lift, but there should be a much harder look given to begin reforming agriculture so that it serves people, not just corporations, and betters our society, not just their bottom line.  It would also go a long way to addressing our health care and climate problems.

June 19, 2009

Update:Floor Debate Next Week Unlikely

It looks as though the deadline of June 19 is not going to be met for getting the Waxman-Markey bill out of committee, although this is not yet definite.  Negotiations are still taking place between the bill’s writers and Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson.  I got forwarded an update by Energy and Environment Daily from a subscriber, and I think it will be worth reposting below.  I only have a loose opinion, but it might not be a bad thing that the bill has to wait until after the July 4 recess.  Healthcare seems to be moving ten times as slow, so I don’t think it will overwhelm a climate bill in July.  This would also buy more time for activists to push for strengthening amendments to be introduced, and more time for House leadership to negotiate with swing vote lawmakers to get additional yes votes.  The important thing in my opinion is to get the bill passed in the House before the Senate begins a mark-up so that some momentum can be built.

CLIMATE: House unlikely to debate cap and trade on floor next week — Hoyer


Darren Samuelsohn and Ben Geman, E&E senior reporters

House Democratic leaders today dampened prospects for floor debate next week on a comprehensive global warming and energy bill, while still leaving open a narrow window if key committee leaders can reach agreement on a variety of outstanding issues.  “At this point in time, I have no reason to believe that it’s going to be on  the floor next week, but I want to make it clear to the members that work is  being done as we speak on this bill,” Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)  said this afternoon on the House floor during his weekly wrap-up session.  <>  “We believe this is a very critical and important bill,” Hoyer added. “We believe this is one of the president’s priorities. So I say to the gentleman, I have not announced it on the schedule, my present expectation is it will not be on for next week. But if an agreement was reached today or tomorrow, and it was possible to move it forward, it is possible, and if we had the time to do that, it is possible that we would consider that next week.”

The House will not return for votes until Tuesday evening, leaving a shortamount of time for a climate debate before Congress leaves for the weeklong Independence Day recess, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told E&E. Pelosi also insisted that she never was wedded to bringing the legislation up before July 4.  “We’ll see how it goes,” Pelosi said. “That would be an ambitious schedule, because we’re just finishing the referrals for some of the committees today, and I’ve yet to see the language. Our main issue is, we don’t come in until Tuesday night. So it’s a short week in terms of getting started. But I’m very comfortable with where we are.”  If Democrats cannot get the bill on the floor, Pelosi said she would bring it up when lawmakers return next month. She also downplayed a concern raised by key Democrats, including Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), that the health care debate would dominate the July floor agenda and limit the ability to take up the climate bill.  “Everything is going great,” she said. “It’s the legislative process. It’s going great, and I feel good about it all. We’re going to reach our goals.  And it’s pretty exciting, as a matter of fact. I’m really very excited about the Democratic response. It’s been very, very positive.”  Talks on the climate bill continued into this afternoon as Waxman huddled with Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), as well as several farm group representatives and top White House energy adviser Carol Browner, her assistant, Heather Zichal, and President Obama’s chief legislative aide, Phil Schiliro.  “I’d like to have [Browner] in the room with the farmers,” Peterson said before the meeting. “I’m getting tired of going around in circles. I want to get all the players in the room.”  Peterson said he was frustrated with the back-and-forth this week over the negotiations as key lawmakers have given varying assessments on the status of the talks, only to remain shy of any final deal. “I’m trying to translate between the people that speak Urdu and French,” Peterson said. “And I can’t speak either language. And I’m trying to translate. I’m tired of it.”  Also today, a House Democratic leadership aide said that all eight of the committees with jurisdiction on the bill “are ready to be discharged.  Negotiations obviously continue in separate committees toward manager’s amendment, exchange of letters, conference, etc. But the June 19 deadline has been met for committee referrals.”

Details emerge

Firm details of the negotiations remain unclear in part because of their fluid nature, but several lawmakers privy to the talks said today that one area of possible agreement involves a plan for giving between 0.5 percent and 0.7 percent free allowances to rural electric cooperatives.  Waxman earlier today met with Glenn English, the former Oklahoma Democratic congressman who now runs the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.  “I think they needed 0.7, and I heard they got it, or they got what they needed,” said Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.  Asked about the allowance deal, Waxman replied, “I don’t want to verify anything until it’s nailed down.”  And for his part, Peterson said he is still looking for a complete readout of the meeting. “None of it is settled until all of it is settled,” Peterson said.   “Apparently there was a discussion between Mr. English and Mr. Waxman this morning that Henry described as positive. I haven’t had the time to talk to English to find out what his side of it is.”  But on another Waxman offer, Peterson said Democrats on his committee last night were cool toward a concept Waxman floated in the discussions to ease farm-state concerns about how agricultural offsets are treated in the bill.  Peterson called it a complicated plan that would see “money set aside for a new greenhouse gas conservation program tied together with some offsets.”  Peterson said the proposal “by and large blew up last night,” but did not say it was off the table completely.  “Nobody understood it, for one thing,” he said. “It is a whole new concept being brought in at the last minute. The attitude was, maybe we can look at this, but we don’t see how this works.”  Peterson has several other concerns with the bill — he is wary of U.S. EPA involvement with agricultural emissions policy overall and wants the Agriculture Department to run that sector’s offset programs.  As lawmakers break for the weekend, Peterson said he did not expect to have language written in time for their review. “If you are going to draft this new idea, it would take days to draft,” he said. “I am not sure there is enough interest in it even to go through the effort of drafting.”  Peterson also said he cannot support the House climate bill unless he secures language that would alter EPA biofuels policy. Specifically, he wants to bar EPA from including greenhouse gas emissions from “indirect” land-use changes when measuring the carbon footprints of biofuels. “We want this gone,” he said.  Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a lead co-author of the House climate bill, did not give a direct answer when asked if Peterson’s goal was acceptable. “We are working with him on that issue right now,” he said. “Hopefully, we are going to be able to resolve that.”  EPA is measuring these emissions as part of a draft rule to implement the national renewable fuels standard.

June 16, 2009

Peterson Bought Out

What Could be Inside?

What Could be Inside?

A month ago, I wrote about the staggering amount of money energy lobbyists had given to members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and how coincidentally those who had received the most money were causing the most trouble.  Ever since the bill passed out of that committee, its main obstacle has been the Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson.  Peterson has sought to change something that isn’t even in the bill, which is the EPA seeking to take into account the full life cycle of biofuels so that we’re only using biofuels to replace conventional ones when there aren’t adverse effects like tropical deforestation.  This threatens much of the current ethanol industry, so Peterson has build up a voting block of 30-40 rural farm state Democrats, and is threatening to derail the climate bill unless he gets what he wants.  He also wants farmers to be able to sell billions of dollars worth of offsets on the offset market for farming practices trap which more carbon in the soil and plants.

Now I actually think it’s okay for there to be provisions in the bill where farmers can sell real and verifiable offsets on the domestic offset market we’re going to inevitably have if this bill passes.  See 8 reasons why farmers should support Waxman-Markey.  However right now the bill allows for that even though agriculture is exempt from the cap on greenhouse gas emissions.  The issue Peterson has is he wants the process by which offsets are verified to be adjusted in the bill so that the new process is tilted in favor the benefiting the big agricultural industries.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise then to find that Peterson, like his Energy and Commerce Counterparts, has been bought out by big Ag.  A table says a thousand words.

Agribusiness $1,597,823 $1,342,814 $255,009
Communications/Electronics $76,820 $64,700 $12,120
Construction $97,085 $74,000 $23,085
Defense $10,400 $10,400 $0
Energy & Natural Resources $145,335 $138,585 $6,750
Finance, Insurance & Real Estate $617,164 $579,774 $37,390
Health $232,870 $222,200 $10,670
Lawyers & Lobbyists $181,785 $92,753 $89,032
Transportation $136,750 $132,500 $4,250
Misc Business $277,896 $238,231 $39,665
Labor $1,064,494 $1,063,794 $700
Ideological/Single-Issue $228,351 $208,251 $20,100
Other $32,305 $7,000 $25,305

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