Live in Copenhagen: Rep. Blackburn plays politics at the expense of the planet

Stephen Smith | December 17, 2009 | Climate Change
blackburn1It was with great disappointment that I watched the congresswoman’s republican response to the President’s weekly radio address last Saturday. She is now in Copenhagen as part of the U.S. Congressional Delegation. Her grandstanding appears to be more aimed at her growing Sara Palin wannabe ambition and appealing to the hard right teabag wing of the Republican party  than a serious effort to engage and lead on climate and energy policy.

Her comments are inflammatory. They are talking points that are long on rhetoric and short on facts. She falsely claims that the plan being debated in Copenhagen will destroy millions of U.S. jobs and damage our economic competitiveness. She also wants to stop the EPA from regulating carbon emissions as directed by the Supreme Court in 2007. She falsely claims that India and China are unwilling to agree to do anything to reduce their emissions and she talks about unilaterally disarming engines of job creation.

Her statements are ironic as Congresswoman Blackburn is from the 7th Congressional district in Tennessee, a district that has seen tremendous opportunities begin to develop in the clean energy economy within the past 18 months. Hemlock Semiconductor announced a major commitment to produce polysilicon, the precursor for solar panels, by opening a new plant near Clarksville, TN — in her district. This is a major investment that will employ over 500 people.  Tennessee is also already working to expand the use of advanced biofuels and cellulosic ethanol. Many of her rural constituents will be able to diversify their income streams with initiatives to grow switchgrass and others feedstocks for low carbon fuels. Nissan is moving forward on electric cars in Tennessee to create even more jobs. Even the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) which provides power to her district has a stated goal of generating as much as 50% of their power from carbon free sources by 2020.

screen-shot-2009-12-18-at-50056-amThese very real economic development opportunities are emerging because of the growing awareness that we need move away from fossil fuels because of their carbon emissions. We know that these are just the beginning of the opportunities that will emerge if we have strong market signals and a strong climate commitment in our country. Congresswoman Blackburn seems to completely misunderstand what is driving the creation of these jobs and the billions of dollars being invested in renewable energy manufacturing, low carbon biofuels and new electric vehicles. Instead, Blackburn wants to parrot talking points instead of really focusing on opportunities that are good for Tennessee and our country.

She claims that climate change plans will “tax people out of their houses and homes.”  There’s no factual basis this inflammatory statement. The reality is that studies have been done by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and independent non-governmental groups that looked at both the economic development opportunities and the impact of taking aggressive measures to address climate change and the results of those studies contradict Blackburn’s statements.

If the Congresswoman has a different approach to solving the climate crisis we welcome her to advance it. If she does not like the cap-and-trade approach, then what is Blackburn’s plan to solve global climate change? Thoughtful people can disagree between potential solutions (“Cap and Trade,” “Cap and Dividend” or “Carbon Tax“) while agreeing there is a problem to be solved.  South Carolina’s Rep. Bob Inglis, another southern Congressional member, has found a way to constructively engage the discussion with what he calls a revenue-neutral tax swap (The Raise Wages, Cut Carbon Act of 2009). While we have disagreed with Senator Alexander’s policy, he so far has avoided the ignorant and inflammatory rhetortic of the far right.

Blackburn’s support for more drilling and nuclear while only giving lip service to energy efficiency and renewable energy will not create real market signals for the energy sector that legislation and international agreements will and amounts to little more than tired talking points. Her support of only voluntary actions and incentives ignores the facts since 1992 when the US pledged voluntary reductions to the world at the Rio Earth Summit.

The fact she actually denies that humans are significantly contributing to global climate change shows just how ignorant of the facts she remains. She is far more interested in talking about the stolen emails of climate scientists than actually understanding the basic, underlying science their work is advancing. Clearly this is not constructive engagement worthy of a Member of Congress.  She’s simply trying to advance her political ambition.

Participants in the negotiations from around the world have gathered in Copenhagen in a serious effort to reach a thoughtful international agreement that will protect both human health and the natural environment for our generation and our children.  It’s a great disappointment to the state of Tennessee and embarrassing that Blackburn is attempting to advance her political agenda at the expense of the larger world community. It’s this type of arrogance that really damages the United States’ credibility abroad and makes it more difficult for us to be engaged on this and a number of other issues important to our state. As many Tennessee leaders work to bring international investment to our state, Blackburn’s actions are a black mark for our great state.

You can watch the congresswoman’s GOP address here:

Stephen Smith
Dr. Stephen A. Smith has over 35 years of experience affecting positive change for the environment. Since 1993, Dr. Smith has led the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) as…
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