Friday, January 26, 2007

Next week: The Senate version of American Idol? and more

It could become the Senate version of American Idol! On January 30, Senator Barbara Boxer will host a forum in her Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on "Senators' Perspectives on Global Warming."

As noted by the committee, “The purpose of the hearing is to hear from each Senator about his or her views on global warming, and what the Senator believes the nation's response should be to the issue.”

Expect to see quite a few presidential candidates, starting at 9 am. (But who’s going to be Simon Cowell? Ultimately, the voters, I guess.)


At the same time (actually starting at 10 am) the new House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold its first hearing – also on global warming. It will involve “allegations of political interference with the work of government climate change scientists.”


Smog season: Yes, global warming is rightly getting the headlines, but there are other big issues pending – including the US EPA’s review of national health standards for smog. We anticipate a milestone next week. Stay tuned for details on a mid-day January 31 briefing-by-phone that we plan to host. This can be very useful for folks outside of DC as well as those of us trapped inside the proverbial Beltway.


Filthy liquid lucre: What unites President Bush and Barack Obama? Why, support for plans to subsidize conversion of coal to liquid fuel. As you may know, environmentalists are aghast at this idea, because of the potential to increase greenhouse gas emissions. (Obama, to be fair, advocates a cap and overall reduction in global warming pollution, unlike the President.)

But industry is ramping up its lobbying activities: note that a new (front?) group has been formed – Future Coal Fuels – with a web site provided by the National Mining Association:

It is now writing to members of Congress to “urge you to cosponsor the "Coal-to-Liquids Promotion Act of 2007" and to debunk the misleading claims recently put forth by a handful of environmental lobbying groups in opposition to this much-needed legislation.” (Let us know if you want the whole letter.)

There is a wonderful piece in today’s Wall St. Journal on this new push for coal-to-liquid (especially interesting: the ethanol lobby is afraid it might lose some of its money to coal!).

And there are some pretty shrewd companies and lobbyists involved, including Utah-based Headwaters, which has the well-wired Hunton and Williams law/lobby firm on its payroll. Following the money, note that Headwaters’ PAC gave to a fair number of lawmakers in the last election cycle, including Reps. Rick Boucher (D-VA), John Shimkus (R-IL), and Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Robert Byrd (D-WVA) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Another company associated by name with Future Coal Fuels is the Denver-based Rentech, Inc., which is working closely with coal behemoth Peabody.

In a federal lobbying registration form, one of Rentech’s lobbyists was touchingly innocent in explaining his mission: “Lobbying for grant to build a plant in MS.”

That is our tax money we’re talking about.

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