Posted by: Steven M. Taber | April 24, 2009

Day Four of Waxman-Markey Bill Hearings: Al Gore, John Warner and Newt Gingrich Steal the Show

The Waxman-Markey Bill (also known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act) hearings ended with a bang, featuring Former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore, former Senator John Warner and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. The testimony they gave was no surprise, but it underlined the deep divisions that exist, at least at the political level, and the uphill battle that this Bill faces.

Gore’s Testimony

Former Vice President Gore was first in the witness chair. He gave his standard (and very effective) stump speech about climate change: the country is at risk on three fronts: economy, national security and climate. He likened the Waxman-Markey bill to a civil rights bill: “the most important of our lives. It is a moral imperative.” He stated that it is an environmental Marshall Plan, which is what he called for (and outlined) in his book “Earth in the Balance.” Gore then started talking about “tipping points,” his belief that the levels of CO2 in the air and other factors that might tip the balance to a point that it is irreparable. He ended his statement with “the USA is the world’s leader. Once we find the courage to take on this issue the world will also act. We need to act.”

The Climate Change skeptics on the Committee sought to discredit Gore, but were largely unsuccessful. First, Rep. Fred Upton (R.-Mich.) tried to paint Gore as being anti-nuclear. Gore responded that he is not anti-nuclear, it is just his belief that the problems associated with nuclear energy, i.e., waste, accidents, size, fuel sources, weapons issues, are not easily addressed. Rep. Steve Scalise (R.-La.) took a shot at Gore accusing him of conspiring with Ken Lay of Enron for setting up insider trading deals that are contained in the cap-and-trade portion of the Bill. Gore responded with the respect that such a comment deserves: “there are people that still think the moon landing was staged in a Hollywood studio.” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R.-Tenn.) also attempted an ad hominem attack, asking whether Gore personally profited “from this push towards a cap-and-trade system?” She specifically referred to Gore’s presence on the Board of the firm Kliner Perkins. Gore responded incredulously “are you serious? Do you think I have devoted the past 30 years of my life to this cause just so I could benefit from a bill that is up for debate right now?” In all, the attacks on Gore did not move the skeptic’s agenda forward.

Warner’s Testimony

Former Sen. Warner, a Republican from Virginia, who was the co-author of last year’s Warner-Lieberman Bill which covered much of the same ground as this bill, echoed Gore.  Warner stated that “energy independence, global climate change and national security are very interwoven.” Warner recognized that there will be costs to industry and to the people, but that “if we keep on with business as usual, we will reach a point where the worst effects are inevitable.”

Gingrich’s Testimony

By contrast, former Speaker of House Newt Gingrich’s testimony focused on his proposal that instead of clean energy, the U.S. ought to expand off-shore drilling, oil shale, oil refineries, “green” coal, and nuclear energy to resolve its energy security issues. Gingrich heightened the rhetoric by calling the EPA economic analysis “intellectually dishonest” in not presenting both sides of the story. This tactic, reminiscent of the debate over evolution, seeks to paint one side as presenting something that is not certain and claiming that that side is not releasing all of the facts.

The Democrats ripped into Gingrich. Chairman Henry Waxman (D.-Calif.) excoriated Gingrich for using scare tactics and talking in circles, ending by asking “if you are scared to work with us, what are doing here?” Likewise, Rep. Jay Inslee (D.-Wash.) asked Gingrich “you were asked in 2007 if you supported a cap on carbon. You responded ‘frankly, it is something I would strongly support.’ What happened?” Indeed, Gingrich appeared in ads for Gore’s “We” campaign promoting the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Gingrich did not have a reply.

Industry and Regulator Testimony

In the afternoon, various industry officials paraded before the Committee to ask for specific changes to the Bill that would benefit their industry and regulators stating that those changes should not be made. For example, Dr.  Dan Sperling from the University of California at Davis stated that the California Air Resources Board voted for a Low Carbon Fuel Standard, and the U.S. should follow California’s lead. On the other hand, Charles Drevna, President of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association testified that Low Carbon Fuel Standard is redundant, costly and punitive. There were a few good points made, though. Ian Bowles, from the Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, updated the Committee on Massachusetts’ experience with 100% auctions, concluding that auctions work and they work “brilliantly.”

Click on “Continue Reading” for a Witness List with links to their prepared testimony as well as links to video of the session.

Witness List

Panel 1:  Vice President Al Gore and Senator John Warner:  Bipartisan Leaders’ Views on the ACES Legislation

Panel 2:  Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s Views on the ACES Legislation

Panel 3:Energy Efficiency, Transportation, Building Appliances, and Utilities

Panel 4: Carbon Market Assurance, State Roles, Clean Air Act, and Adaptation

Video

Panel 2: Stream or Download

Panel 3: Stream or Download

Panel 4: Stream or Download

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