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Kucinich Says Climate Bill Might Make Things Worse

Posted on Jun 27, 2009
Dennis Kucinich
SEIU International

Rep. Dennis Kucinich explains why he voted against the climate bill that narrowly passed the House Friday: “It sets targets that are too weak, especially in the short term, and sets about meeting those targets through Enron-style accounting methods. It gives new life to one of the primary sources of the problem that should be on its way out—coal—by giving it record subsidies.”

Statement From Rep. Dennis Kucinich:

“I oppose H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.  The reason is simple.  It won’t address the problem.  In fact, it might make the problem worse.

“It sets targets that are too weak, especially in the short term, and sets about meeting those targets through Enron-style accounting methods.  It gives new life to one of the primary sources of the problem that should be on its way out– coal – by giving it record subsidies.  And it is rounded out with massive corporate giveaways at taxpayer expense.  There is $60 billion for a single technology which may or may not work, but which enables coal power plants to keep warming the planet at least another 20 years.

“Worse, the bill locks us into a framework that will fail.  Science tells us that immediately is not soon enough to begin repairing the planet.  Waiting another decade or more will virtually guarantee catastrophic levels of warming.  But the bill does not require any greenhouse gas reductions beyond current levels until 2030.

“Today’s bill is a fragile compromise, which leads some to claim that we cannot do better.  I respectfully submit that not only can we do better; we have no choice but to do better.  Indeed, if we pass a bill that only creates the illusion of addressing the problem, we walk away with only an illusion.  The price for that illusion is the opportunity to take substantive action.

“There are several aspects of the bill that are problematic.

1.    Overall targets are too weak. The bill is predicated on a target atmospheric concentration of 450 parts per million, a target that is arguably justified in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but which is already out of date. Recent science suggests 350 parts per million is necessary to help us avoid the worst effects of global warming.

2.    The offsets undercut the emission reductions. Offsets allow polluters to keep polluting; they are rife with fraudulent claims of emissions reduction; they create environmental, social, and economic unintended adverse consequences; and they codify and endorse the idea that polluters do not have to make sacrifices to solve the problem.

3.    It kicks the can down the road. By requiring the bulk of the emissions to be carried out in the long term and requiring few reductions in the short term, we are not only failing to take the action when it is needed to address rapid global warming, but we are assuming the long term targets will remain intact.

4.    EPA’s authority to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short- to medium-term is rescinded. It is our best defense against a new generation of coal power plants.  There is no room for coal as a major energy source in a future with a stable climate.

5.    Nuclear power is given a lifeline instead of phasing it out.  Nuclear power is far more expensive, has major safety issues including a near release in my own home state in 2002, and there is still no resolution to the waste problem.  A recent study by Dr. Mark Cooper showed that it would cost $1.9 trillion to $4.1 trillion more over the life of 100 new nuclear reactors than to generate the same amount of electricity from energy efficiency and renewables.

6.    Dirty Coal is given a lifeline instead of phasing it out.  Coal-based energy destroys entire mountains, kills and injures workers at higher rates than most other occupations, decimates ecologically sensitive wetlands and streams, creates ponds of ash that are so toxic the Department of Homeland Security will not disclose their locations for fear of their potential to become a terrorist weapon, and fouls the air and water with sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, particulates, mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and thousands of other toxic compounds that cause asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, and pulmonary and cardiac problems for starters.  In contrast, several times more jobs are yielded by renewable energy investments than comparable coal investments.

7.    The $60 billion allocated for Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) is triple the amount of money for basic research and development in the bill. We should be pressuring China, India and Russia to slow and stop their power plants now instead of enabling their perpetuation. We cannot create that pressure while spending unprecedented amounts on a single technology that may or may not work. If it does not work on the necessary scale, we have then spent 10-20 years emitting more CO2, which we cannot afford to do. In addition, those who will profit from the technology will not be viable or able to stem any leaks from CCS facilities that may occur 50, 100, or 1000 years from now.

8.    Carbon markets can and will be manipulated using the same Wall Street sleights of hand that brought us the financial crisis.

9.    It is regressive.  Free allocations doled out with the intent of blunting the effects on those of modest means will pale in comparison to the allocations that go to polluters and special interests.  The financial benefits of offsets and unlimited banking also tend to accrue to large corporations.  And of course, the trillion dollar carbon derivatives market will help Wall Street investors.  Much of the benefits designed to assist consumers are passed through coal companies and other large corporations, on whom we will rely to pass on the savings.

10.  The Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) is not an improvement. The 15% RES standard would be achieved even if we failed to act.

11.  Dirty energy options qualify as “renewable”: The bill allows polluting industries to qualify as “renewable energy.”  Trash incinerators not only emit greenhouse gases, but also emit highly toxic substances.  These plants disproportionately expose communities of color and low-income to the toxics.  Biomass burners that allow the use of trees as a fuel source are also defined as “renewable.” Under the bill, neither source of greenhouse gas emissions is counted as contributing to global warming.

12.  It undermines our bargaining position in international negotiations in Copenhagen and beyond. As the biggest per capita polluter, we have a responsibility to take action that is disproportionately stronger than the actions of other countries. It is, in fact, the best way to preserve credibility in the international context.

13.  International assistance is much less than demanded by developing countries. Given the level of climate change that is already in the pipeline, we are going to need to devote major resources toward adaptation.  Developing countries will need it the most, which is why they are calling for much more resources for adaptation and technology transfer than is allocated in this bill.  This will also undercut our position in Copenhagen.

“I offered eight amendments and cosponsored two more that collectively would have turned the bill into an acceptable starting point.  All amendments were not allowed to be offered to the full House.  Three amendments endeavored to minimize the damage that will be done by offsets, a method of achieving greenhouse gas reductions that has already racked up a history of failure to reduce emissions – increasing emissions in some cases – while displacing people in developing countries who rely on the land for their well being.

“Three other amendments would have made the federal government a force for change by requiring all federal energy to eventually come from renewable resources, by requiring the federal government to transition to electric and plug-in hybrid cars, and by requiring the installation of solar panels on government rooftops and parking lots.  These provisions would accelerate the transition to a green economy.

“Another amendment would have moved up the year by which reductions of greenhouse gas emissions were required from 2030 to 2025.  It would have encouraged the efficient use of allowances and would have reduced opportunities for speculation by reducing the emission value of an allowance by a third each year.

“The last amendment would have removed trash incineration from the definition of renewable energy.  Trash incineration is one of the primary sources of environmental injustice in the country.  It a primary source of compounds in the air known to cause cancer, asthma, and other chronic diseases.  These facilities are disproportionately sited in communities of color and communities of low income.  Furthermore, incinerators emit more carbon dioxide per unit of electricity produced than coal-fired power plants.

“Passing a weak bill today gives us weak environmental policy tomorrow,” said Kucinich.

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By zootsuitbeatnick, July 13, 2009 at 10:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

DK…the only American politician I can think of who isn’t a corporate toad.  Too bad one isn’t enough.

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By Trailing Begonia, July 1, 2009 at 5:58 am Link to this comment

This has pretty much become my rule of thumb for measuring any kind of action taken by the US Congress: 

(1)  How much is it going to put in the pockets of the corporations?

(2)  How much is it gonna cost us taxpayer?

The rest is really, really irrelevant.  Just the fact that these whores agreed to it means that just another piece of highway robbery legislation.  Nothing more, nothing less!

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By KDelphi, June 30, 2009 at 3:56 pm Link to this comment

“giving away” the allocations, subsidies for coal, subsidies for nukes.

The bill is a step in the wrong direction.

The strange subsidies given to coal cos to “help low income consumers” are a joke.

I will be interested in hearing what we are going to say in Copenhagen..,.

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By joshuastarlight, June 30, 2009 at 3:36 pm Link to this comment

ardee, thank you for sharing! I do like & agree with his statements you quoted. In relation to the “peace dividend” from his perspective, I had only read his farewell speech, so it is good to see that he repeated the theme more than the famous speech. I will have to look for more instances of his thoughts regarding war & peace.

It is interesting that Eisenhower was instrumental in creating the military-industrial-congressional complex, & he was also certainly very much opposed to it as it was when he gave his farewell speech, or at least the worst aspects of it as he perceived it to be & its possibility for the future. In which case he was certainly prescient, perhaps because of his intimate involvement with it, regarding future wars & conflicts throughout the latter half of the twentieth century.

I certainly hope things will change for the better. Listening to his warnings now is certainly better than never heeding them. Perhaps we can create a better way of focusing on feeding & educating the poor instead of funding massive industries of war & destruction. I think some (hopefully more as time goes on) people would agree that there is a better world possible, though many do seem to be apathetic and/or fatalistic in the present-oriented vision of time, some with a simultaneously & correspondingly negative perspective of the past with no hope for the future either. Which perspective I gather partially from listening to Philip Zimbardo’s talk at, which I found to be very interesting & useful indeed.

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By ardee, June 30, 2009 at 3:04 pm Link to this comment

“Dwight David Eisenhower said it best at the end of his presidency, ‘watch out for the congressional-military-industrial complex. For they are out to wrest control of this government from the hands of the people and turn this nation into the most evil of things a purveyor of war goods and a leader of nations in the war game.”

I am assuming that photoshock paraphrased Eisenhower….Here are a couple of exact quotes:

” Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone, it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under clouds of war it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”

One more, indulge me please:

“Here in America we are descended in blood and spirit from revolutionaries and rebels. Men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs we may never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.”

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By joshuastarlight, June 30, 2009 at 8:14 am Link to this comment

photoshock, when did Eisenhower say what you said he said? I can’t find that he said that. He did say “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” Resistance to which has gone on since long before Ronald Reagan was president, although he did accelerate the arms race or at least was party to its acceleration, despite his calls for a disarmament treaty. & The anti-nuclear power movement in the 70’s, anti-nuclear testing & disarmament movement in the 60’s, & earlier movements all owe a debt of inspiration to the Native American traditions, society, & resistance movement throughout the United States’ history.

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By DAveKnTux, June 30, 2009 at 4:35 am Link to this comment

I have to agree with Kucinich on a lot of points, the overall effectiveness of the global warming is pretty weak, the targets are not big enough. He’s also right about phasing out nuclear, in the long run its going to cost us so much more. The whoel wall street cap adn trade system is also pretty dodgy and open to manipulation.

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By joshuastarlight, June 29, 2009 at 11:09 pm Link to this comment

I tend to agree with just about everything Kucinich says, except one of his last points about the first year that reductions would be required under the bill; there apparently would be a reduction by 2012 (of just 3%!), 83% (17% reduction) of 2005 levels by 2020, & 53% (47% reduction) by 2030. Of course, this may just be my misunderstanding of his wanting to push up the 2030 levels to 2025. In any case, I am having a hard time countenancing completely giving up on the bill now, even with the coal subsidies & limiting EPA restrictions. Obviously, both provisions as well as the others Kucinich mentions are odious at best & we should oppose them. Perhaps we should even lobby against the bill if it is not stronger. In any case as it is now, the bill is definitely not enough, but I do not think it would necessarily make things worse, and it does represent something of a turning point, but all-in-all support for it does not even come close to guaranteeing reduction in carbon emissions or maybe even helping avert global warming/heating/climate destabilization. The positives are green jobs & mandates for reductions, though probably not enough of either. It’s definitely a start, but a start to what I’m not sure. There seems to be a fairly good summary of the bill at, which confirms the coal subsidies & derivatives trading criticisms.

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By photoshock, June 29, 2009 at 6:59 am Link to this comment

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, a man with integrity and a true and honest soul.
You think that the corporate masters, those who truly run this country, would allow him to be elected? WOW! We have some truly deceived people in this country, for those who run this country would never allow someone as honest and with that much integrity to be the figurehead of power in this country. Think of the primaries, Rep. Kucinich, along with Rep. Ron Paul, and many others did not see the light of day in the debates and on television, because they did not fit the corporate overseers vision of a new and different president.
Obama, the ultimate deceiver, became the president because he could be bought for a price, the price of having a lifetime of money and power that will not end until he is dead.
Dwight David Eisenhower said it best at the end of his presidency, ‘watch out for the congressional-military-industrial complex. For they are out to wrest control of this government from the hands of the people and turn this nation into the most evil of things a purveyor of war goods and a leader of nations in the war game.’
We are now that vision, and to wrest control back from the congressional-military-industrial complex, will take a soft-glove, motivated and never-ending revolution, the scale of which we have never seen and must endure if we are to again be a true republic. One which represents the will of the people and not the ‘masters of the universe,’ as we have seen since the ‘great communicator,’ became president.
That being said, the lies which have been foisted upon us about ‘clean coal,’ one which advertised on this very website, is completely false and Rep. Kucinich has the foresight to see through the lies and tell the truth to power. Should he ever run for president as an independent, you can surely bet, that I will work for his election as if my very life depended upon it, for it truly does.

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By KDelphi, June 28, 2009 at 9:01 pm Link to this comment

thebeerdr is right.

But I really dot know about the “evil” and “Armageddon” stuff (??)..I like Kucinich, but, his own party treats him ike a joke.

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By yours truly, June 28, 2009 at 5:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Let’s see, the House climate bill offers us only the illusion of solving the problem of global warming, the total privatization of health care will offer us only the illusion of providing health care for all,  and President Obama’s declarations that America no longer will use torture turn out to be lies.  So what do we do, look for another leader and tool up for the 2010 or 2012 campaigns, thereby setting ourselves up for more disappointment?  Permissable behabior, perhaps, if time weren’t running out on account of perpetual war + global warming + economic collapse = doomsday.  But the fact is that time is running out and that the lives of our children and grandchildren depend upon our getting serious right about global warming starting right now.  But if not through politics, how?  By our rising up en masse, that’s how.  Other options?  Sorry but there are no viable ones, nothing but illusions.

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By JimBob, June 28, 2009 at 11:36 am Link to this comment

Kucinich is right.  A bill with coal subsidies is like a prescription from a doctor for light cigarettes.  Hey, USA, you gotta stop smoking or you’re gonna die!

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By hippie4ever, June 28, 2009 at 10:34 am Link to this comment

Democrats are the New Republicans, and Republicans are all crazy people. Some government. Dennis is dead on regarding this bill—it’s a stunning compilation of loopholes so big & transparent the dumbest, greediest SOBs on corporate boards can steal untold amounts from you and me.

More change we cannot believe in.

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By ernieson, June 28, 2009 at 8:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

DK has always been the most straightforward member of Congress and mostly been spot on. The climate bill likely will not pass the Senate anyway, and if it does, it will be condoned by Republicans as a political weapon to be used against Obama and the Dems in 2010 elections. We are currently dependent on fossil fuels and efforts should first be made to clean them up. Nuclear is costly and clean, but the wastes must be disposed of. I have yet to see many nuke proponents (Republicans) willing to accept nuke wastes in their states.

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By wanked, June 28, 2009 at 8:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There was recently a discussion on Democracy Now by a leading scientist who stated that we are AT the tipping point where nature will be able to assist man with turning things around ecologically. Soon we will have destroyed that vital link to recovery, and humans be working alone to fix a terminal planet, to no avail. Very frightening interview.

As for Dennis Kucinich…I think he should consider running as an indie.

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By glider, June 28, 2009 at 6:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I don’t know who the fellow is with Dennis in the attending photo but I can’t help but imagine the caption of him thinking “hey dude, f**k the people, get one board with the program, this is Congress!”.  Kucinich was too good to be president and I often wonder how he manages to get elected to Congress in our current system.

The one area I might disagree with him here is that I tend to be a pro-nuclear liberal. No CO2 emissions and as for the waste problem, well don’t we already have that problem from 60+ years of nuclear activity and the rapid spread of nuclear power plants worldwide? Even if we end up producing 10 times the current waste problem we already have to deal with it.

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By Purple Girl, June 28, 2009 at 5:26 am Link to this comment

No doubt Kucinich is Correct.
But I must ask about the sideeffects and hidden costs of these ‘clean renewable’ energy sources.
Both wind and Solar will require vast amounts of land to be used for these ‘Farms’- where are the proposed Swatches of land going to be? Will our national pristine ‘Purple mountains majesty’ be needed to acquire the best ‘bang for our buck’? will it be our ‘shining Seas’ or our praires?
And what will be generated from these energy sources- electricity. Where will be the Power Stations, the chain of Power lines. Will those also beome part of our Landscape? Will they be located over homes and schools. There is good evidence to support the concern that these stations and lines cause cancer- Brain tumors. So what will be the over all effect, on our Ecological niches, our communities and our people, should we go entirely Electric?  I am all for ‘Clean Renewable’ energy sources, but I would prefer that such an effort to convert over to a particular source also assures it is safe and does not pose additional environmental concerns, hardships and side effects.
Let’s remember the last great “leftie” idea which had a direct adverse effect- who didn’t see the problems with converting to Corn biofuels on the Worlds food supply?
There is no such thing as a Free Lunch- so what are the hidden costs to any of these forms of energy?
Besides until We Reclaim our national Rights to OUR national’s natural Resources to produce,and distribute energy, We will Never Truely be ‘Energy Independent’. the Energy Corps will continue to own and control the very source of our economic livlihood regardless of which form.

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By Clark, June 28, 2009 at 5:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Why do THEY hate us”?????
Wow, The United States of America has once again heroically pushed forward to the forefront of the Staus Quo! 60 Billion dollars which might have fallen into the hands of solar panel terrorist cells has now been SECURELY guaranteed to thicken our treasured smokescreen.
Other than in a very few congressional districts, if you still support the lying majority of democrats and you think you give a damn about our environment, then you are getting what you deserve. The idiotic, greed lusting, republican cowboys must be disappointed that Obama still has not reached the level of corporate audacity to which they feel entitled.
Obama talks as if this is progress.
This leaves Dennis Kucinich and a few other with integrity and a vision of a better world.

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By jhm, June 28, 2009 at 5:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I hadn’t heard point three (EPA’s authority is rescinded).  To my mind this could be really bad news, and I hope an effort to explain the proposed changes so that people can express themselves on the issue is in the offing.

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By ardee, June 28, 2009 at 5:05 am Link to this comment

When the defenders of the democratic party finally come to understand that there are a scant few democrats worthy of defense Kucinich will certainly be one of the few.

I wonder where all these democratic loyalists hide when the discussion turns to the obvious. 60 billion for a technique [ sequestration] that may not work and brings its own problems as well [storage].

The bill is yet another example of the fraud of Obama progress. All these politicians care about is giving the public words of hope and deeds that retard progress and smash our hopes.

Rather than continue to support a party as hopelessly wedded to corporate interests as are both major parties, it is past time to begin to build third party structures , politics not wedded to greed and the influence of money.

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By thebeerdoctor, June 28, 2009 at 4:39 am Link to this comment

“All amendments were not allowed to be offered to the full House.”
The fault dear Dennis, lies not with the stars, but within thy own party.

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By Jaded Prole, June 28, 2009 at 4:01 am Link to this comment

Kucinich could never get elected because he refuses to be owned by the ruling class interests who decide electability. Obama is owned. He is president because he is more competent than McCain and the corporatocracy felt their investments would be safer with him managing the empire.

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By liecatcher, June 28, 2009 at 12:40 am Link to this comment



As a politician Kucinich can’t just tell the whole truth, so he plays good cop as a foil to the miscreants.

To really appreciate just how horrendous this bill is, and get a look at the big picture, one must read:“Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy”  by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. .

King Coal & related cabals purchased Obama’s soul.

Even though it wouldn’t change the outcome, Obama, the master deceiver, didn’t want us to see the visitor’s log & know who actually wrote the energy bill. Bush / Cheney did the same thing with big oil.

Obama was installed in the White House for the primary purpose of destroying America & enslaving the populace, & he is burying us at a record pace. He pushed us from the edge of the debtor’s abyss into guaranteed slavery.

Obama is the face of evil.

This is Armagheddon & evil is winning.

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By KDelphi, June 27, 2009 at 11:30 pm Link to this comment

I do not understand why they even bothered to pass this…coal and nukes..but, Obama said in the campaign that he supported both, so , I dont know what dems were expecting…more giveaways to industry.

Obama is only concerned with preversing Capital for the rich.

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By Ian Welland, June 27, 2009 at 11:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I don’t trust anything any politician says.

That being said, he consistently says factually accurate things.

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By RobertinWestbury, June 27, 2009 at 7:05 pm Link to this comment

Dennis Kucinich is the only completely truthful politician in Congress.  I trust anything he says…  If only he had been elected….

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