Recession reality written into climate bill amendment

The American Clean Energy and Security Act presently being debated in Washington seeks to lower green-house gas emissions and promote alternative energy. GOP detractors have called it a “cap and tax” bill that dares in a recession to place the environment above the economy. The bill’s Democratic supporters have rightly called these complaints short-sighted. In addition to at least attempting to prevent environmental catastrophe, they say, a new clean-energy America would translate to great wealth and security.

These sides will not be reconciled. Or maybe they already have on some level in one corner of the larger debate. That semi-reconciliation based on political realities of the recession is killing environmental advocates.

Biofuel is a big business in the rural heartland, one that in the present stage of its development produces a lot of green-house gases. It’s also an alternative energy. It has been singled out for special treatment for both reasons.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) used a great deal of leverage to gain support for an amendment that significantly reduces the criteria that biofuels, such as ethanol and wood pellets, would have to meet in order to be considered a “renewable” source of energy. The formulation exempts the biofuel industry from the worst of the regulations capping emissions. The “Peterson Amendment” is a victory for farmers who grow or harvest these materials, a victory for places like Larimer County. And a victory too for Betsy Markey, who proudly supported the Clean Energy Act as well as the Amendment, which came out of the Agriculture Committee of which she is a member.

Read more from the Colorado Independent about the political realities of the ethanol business here in the recession and more on environmental opposition to the Peterson Amendment at the Washington Independent.

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