Senate Dems to set up global warming task force

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

Senate Democrats are planning on setting up a global warming task force to revive the issue in Congress and help President Obama achieve the goals set out in his climate agenda.

Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Sheldon Whitehouse told reporters on Thursday that they would launch the task force with more than a dozen members. They say they have the full support of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“The purpose is to use the bully pulpit of our Senate offices to achieve that wakeup call,” Boxer told reporters who gathered in her office. “We believe that climate change is a catastrophe that’s unfolding before our eyes and we want Congress to take off the blindfolds.”

“We are defending against legislative riders that would roll back environmental laws, including the president’s climate initiative,” Boxer said.

Boxer chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works committee where she has made several attempts to highlight the effects of global warming. One hearing the committee held with climate experts backfired when none of the witnesses on the panel could counter evidence presented by scientist Dr. Roger Pielke, who argued that global warming is not causing extreme weather.

The California Democrat also introduced a bill with Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders to tax carbon dioxide emissions and use the funds to support renewable energy development. That effort failed in the face of stiff resistance from Republicans and some Democrats.

“The goals of carbon pricing include curbing our fossil fuel use, encouraging lower carbon emissions, creating jobs and spurring innovation,” Boxer and Sanders wrote in a recent oped.

“Cutting carbon pollution will help keep our air and water clean and protect our children from respiratory illnesses such as asthma. It also will help families and businesses across America save money,” the Senators said. “There is a growing consensus that putting a price on carbon pollution is the most effective way to fight global warming.”

While Boxer and Whitehouse say a carbon tax is still something they want to pursue, the task force will focus on protecting existing federal and state efforts to combat global warming, including imposing a national green energy standard and improving energy efficiency in federal buildings.

“There is a lot we can do on climate and a lot of room for optimism on getting things done now that the American public is very clearly with us,” said Whitehouse, who has delivered a weekly Senate floor address on global warming for the past year.

Passing any sort of global warming bill will be difficult in the split Senate, and will most likely be killed in the Republican House. That is why President Obama has resorted to executive orders to achieve the goals he laid out in his climate plan.

Obama ordered the creation of a climate council in November that would help prepare the country for the effects of global warming. The council, however, is mostly chaired by Democrats and will include some of the president’s national security advisers.

“The Obama administration uses ‘climate change’ as an excuse to accomplish other goals,” said Daniel Simmons, director of regulatory and state affairs at the Institute for Energy Research. “Who knows why the administration is including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and the Department of Veterans Affairs on a council to ‘prepare the national for the impacts of climate change.’”

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Tags : barbara boxer global warming
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