Month 10, Day 18: Idiots In High Places Rewarding One Another

The League Of Conservation Voters endorses a Republican, Dave Reichert (WA-08).

The LCV Press Release includes these words:

“We are proud to endorse Congressman Reichert for re-election because he supports policies that will not only build a clean energy economy that gets Washington’s workers back on the job, but will also reduce our dependence on foreign oil and curb harmful pollution,” said LCV Action Fund President Gene Karpinski.

You may recall that the League of Conservation Voters also endorsed Joe Lieberman in the 2006 election. Granted, Lieberman has been better on climate than he was on healthcare…but fact remains that he helped legitimate huge chunks of the Cheney administration’s acts of destruction — which surely should count against him on the environmental-good-guy-o-meter.

I go into this every time one of the LCV people call me. They sigh; it is my hope that I’m not the only one telling them this.

After I heard about the Reichert announcement, I was moved to send the following to Gene Karpinski, le grande fromage du LCV.

Gene Karpinski
League of Conservation Voters
1920 L Street, NW Suite 800
Washington, DC 20036

Dear Mr. Karpinski — I’ve been wanting to get this letter off my chest for a long time — since 2006, to be exact.  I’ve repeated its words fairly often; I do so every time I speak to a fundraiser from the League of Conservation Voters (at least once every three months).

I want to explain to you, just as I explain to them, why I have chosen not to give any money to the LCV.    I was bitterly disappointed when your organization chose to endorse Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Connecticut Senate race.  I now see you’ve done something similar in your endorsement of Washington congressman Dave Reichert.

That is to say, you’ve shot yourselves in the foot.  I imagine that there are more such instances, but I don’t want to look for them; I feel soiled enough already.

There are profound flaws in your procedure for candidate endorsements, which is based on tallying the number of “pro-environment” and “anti-environment” votes by a particular legislator.  But how on earth could you miss the fact that by 2006, Joe Lieberman’s  panderings to the Bush Administration had allowed them to claim the blessings of bipartisanship upon their wars, their financial chicanery, their ineptitude, their environmental irresponsibility (nay, criminality)?  And how on earth could you miss the fact that Dave Reichert, at a May gathering of Republican strategists, bragged that his “pro-environment” votes were just cynical gamesmanship?

To be fair, Mr. Reichert could actually be a secret environmentalist double-agent lying to his own party’s strategists.  But I think it’s more likely that (as he admitted to the “Mainstream Republicans” group in 2006, speaking of his “pro-environment” votes), “…when the leadership comes to me and says, ‘Dave we need you to take a vote over here, because we want to protect you and keep this majority,’ I do it.”

By short-sightedly structuring your endorsement policy around the sole criterion of counted votes, you enable cynical politicians to manipulate the system.  The mechanism is obvious; waiting until the majority of votes have been counted on a bill often allows an unscrupulous legislator to cast a politically expedient vote (one that, perhaps, makes him likelier to get endorsed by a leading environmental group) which appears to run counter to his party’s platform.  Thus Dave Reichert gets your endorsement, despite the fact that his 90/10 Republican voting record has been part and parcel of the “Party of No” strategy (a strategy that has now fostered a whole Republican subculture of anti-science denialists who threaten to derail progress on climate completely).  And thus Joe Lieberman got your approval.

And that’s what I tell your fund-raisers, and it’s what I’m telling you.

I’ll give you a pass on Lieberman and start donating again — if you repudiate Dave Reichert, and make a significant change in the LCV’s endorsement process.

I’d love to give you some money.  I don’t have much, but you’re welcome to some of it.  But I’m damned I’ll give a dime to an organization that — when it comes to the environment — can’t tell the difference between Democrats and Republicans.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

If anyone wants to contact the League of Conservation Voters to tell them something similar, here’s their contact info.

Month 5, Day 16: Quick and Dirty

Busy tonight. Lots of stuff to do, a long day of teaching tomorrow, and a small gig in the evening. Not a lot of time to invest — so I went to Time Magazine’s website and found their article on the Kerry-Lieberman bill. The letter is a rehash of many of this week’s themes.

The Kerry-Lieberman climate/energy bill’s inclusion of offshore drilling is a testimonial to the destructive influence of political expediency. The Deepwater Horizon disaster needs to be a game-changer. We must learn that fossil fuels are vastly more expensive than we’ve been led to believe; their true costs must include health effects, environmental destruction, catastrophic global warming, and the extremely expensive wars we require to protect our sources. Senator Lindsey Graham, until recently a third partner in the climate legislation, said in a recent statement that abandoning offshore drilling “isn’t realistic.” Maybe so…but it is completely delusional to think that we can continue as we have. “Business as usual” creates climate legislation designed around political exigencies; “business as usual” is a state of profound and complete denial. The Kerry-Lieberman bill needs to be passed — and it needs to be strengthened significantly. America has to kick the fossil fuel habit without delay.

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 14: Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water

Two articles in the NYT. One is a generic piece on the Kerry/Lieberman Climate/Energy Bill (sigh). The other notes that BP doesn’t want to know how much oil they’re releasing. Of course there are people who are making estimates that are closer to reality than the figures the Oil Flacks are giving out, but they’re all Dirty F**king Hippies, so the hell with them.

The oil corporations are demonstrating that given a loose regulatory environment, they will behave like rabid skunks on speed. I fear for us all; I cannot really begin to imagine what it will take to rein them in at this point. Jail time in a maximum security prison for all their chief executives would help.

We discover with depressing regularity that corporations are adept at minimizing, denying or shirking their responsibilities. B.P.’s unwillingness to engage scientific specialists in measuring the size of its oily underwater volcano is an indication that their PR department is making policy decisions — always a bad strategy. Drill, baby, drill; spill, baby, spill; spin, baby, spin! Meanwhile, the Senate is considering a climate and energy bill that does nothing to stop offshore drilling in the Arctic, where Shell Oil is getting ready to begin “exploratory drilling” within two months. Needless to say, weather and oceanic conditions in the Arctic are considerably harsher than in the Gulf of Mexico. Can anyone say, “disaster waiting to happen”? How many Deepwater Horizons is it going to take before we come to our collective senses? The catastrophe in the Gulf is a wake-up call: we must eliminate fossil fuels from our energy diet.

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 12: Idiots Ahoy!


Dear Senators Kerry, Lieberman and Graham,

Today will see the unveiling of the Climate Bill you’ve been working on. I fear that the events of the past few weeks have made your approach to offshore drilling ludicrously out of date. The disaster of the Deepwater Horizon platform and British Petroleum’s pathetically inadequate response make it clear what our attitude towards Big Oil needs to be: No More. Similarly, the West Virginia mine disaster and the callously insensitive response of Massey Coal make it clear what our attitude towards Big Coal needs to be: No More.

No More Mountaintop Removal. No More Offshore Drilling. No More Subsidized Waste, Fraud and Inefficiency. No More Subornation of Congress by the Fossil-Fuel Industry. No More Mendacity. No More Misrepresentation. No More Corporate Irresponsibility.

No More Taking Carbon Out Of The Earth And Putting It In The Atmosphere.

When a newly released report from the National Academy of Sciences suggests that a 21-25 degree level of warming is possible over the next several centuries, and further points out that this would render the planet effectively uninhabitable — and states unequivocally that this warming is a possible consequence of “business as usual,” isn’t it obvious that we cannot continue to do business as usual?

We have to stop. Senators, whatever happened to the American “can do” spirit? Where is your confidence in the industrial sector of our country? Where is your confidence in American know-how? American ingenuity? American resourcefulness? The American sense of responsibility?

Have they been replaced by American irresponsibility, ineffectuality, incompetence, and insularity?

Judging by the discrepancy between what we need and what we’ll get, the answer is “yes.”

Our descendants will judge us harshly. But don’t feel too bad. If we continue “business as usual,” they’ll inherit an unimaginably hostile world — and they’ll probably be too busy struggling to survive to waste much energy on assigning blame. Drill, Baby, Drill!

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 5: Pleading With The Powers That Be

Continuing on this theme — this time writing to the Climate/Energy bill trio. Please write some letters yourself!

Dear Senators Kerry, Lieberman and Graham —

It should be obvious to you that offshore drilling is no longer a viable option for America’s energy policy. We have delayed long enough — it is time for America to confront, and end, its addiction to fossil fuels. The disaster of the Deepwater Horizon is just the latest in a steady stream of catastrophes which illuminate the unfortunate fact that oil and coal are not cheap sources of energy. Fossil energy is only cheap when we don’t include the costs of cleanup, of health effects, of long-term ecological damage, and the expensive wars we wage to protect our sources. Renewable energy sources are only expensive when we don’t consider the benefits of positive environmental effects, more locally-based energy sources, greater reliance on conservation and efficiency, and avoiding some of the worst effects of CO2-induced atmospheric warming.

The Deepwater Horizon is a signal event in the history of our energy policy. It must be recognized as a clarion call to our nation’s citizenry, an “Environmental 9-11” that alerts us to the terrifying consequences of continued reliance on fossil energy.

America needs to wake up and face reality. Are you going to continue to offer sops to the oil and coal lobbies…or are you going to take the necessary steps to transform our energy equation once and for all? Our descendants’ lives hang in the balance.

For once, Senators…do the right thing.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 4, Day 24: Dammit, dammit, dammit.


Dear Senators Kerry and Lieberman,

I am close to despair. I’ve just finished reading the details of the upcoming climate legislation you’ve been working on with Senator Graham. It appears that, in your eagerness to bring big oil interests on board, you’ve given away the store. I was never particularly optimistic that we would get the bill we need, which is to say, a bill that shuts down the fossil fuel industry as quickly as possible — but I had hopes that we would get a bill that didn’t completely capitulate to the demands of our Corporate Overlords.

Seriously — removing the EPA’s authority to regulate CO2? That’s not just a concession, that’s abject surrender. Removing the ability of individual states to set tougher standards than the Federal government? This is specifically a measure designed to undercut California’s emissions requirements, and is in every respect a giveaway.

The whole bill is loaded with goodies for oil, gas and coal companies. And what’s there for the planet? For all of us whose children’s children are going to be struggling for survival on a planet rendered uninhabitable by our collective failure to act in our own best interests? Almost nothing.

And the best part? I’m willing to bet that you won’t get more than a single Republican vote for this piece of craven capitulation. In fact, it would not surprise me if Senator Graham were to vote “No.”

But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps there are hidden gems buried in the fine print that will help us apply genuine regulation to CO2 emissions. Perhaps you’ve figured out how to persuade oil company CEOs that their companies will stop being profitable around the time the human race becomes extinct. Perhaps you’ve figured out how to persuade James Inhofe that waiting for the Rapture is not a viable energy policy. Perhaps you’ve figured out how to persuade Don Blankenship that we need to stop burning coal.

If you can do those things, I’m sure you can persuade me that the long-anticipated climate legislation is an excellent and honorable piece of work. I will await your response.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

Month 3, Day 22: More Fart Jokes, Please.

I’m listening to health-care debate, so I’ve only got a small fraction of a brain. Here’s the latest terrifying news: more on polar methane. I really wish I could remain ignorant of all this.

Dear Senators Kerry, Lieberman and Graham,

I write to urge you to include language in your proposed climate legislation that specifically addresses the problem of polar methane release. A recent study reported in Science News* indicates that microbes living under ice sheets in the polar regions may be churning out huge amounts of this powerful greenhouse gas. If this wasn’t bad enough, we already know that methane is already entering the atmosphere as the permafrost cap that’s been keeping it underground melts, due to increased atmospheric temperatures.

Climatologists’ projections of global warming haven’t yet taken this methane into account, which means that even the worst of the worst-case estimates are undoubtedly too optimistic. We need a world-wide Manhattan Project, bringing together the top scientific minds of the planet to address these multiple interlocked problems.

Rather than allowing that methane to enter the atmosphere and trigger incalculable damage to planetary ecosystems, we need to solve the problem of harvesting and collecting it for use as fuel. While burning methane also releases CO2 (which means that it is unsuitable as a long-term fuel source) this approach is vastly preferable to allowing it to trigger a greenhouse tipping point that would lead us much closer to the Venusian worst-case scenario outlined by Dr. James Hansen.

Any proposed climate legislation needs to acknowledge the magnitude of this problem, and outline steps to engaging the world’s scientific expertise and imagination on methods of ameliorating it.

There is no time to lose.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

* – (

Month 3, Day 11: The Three Messketeers

RL Miller posted an excellent piece at Kos yesterday pointing out that the trio of senators responsible for generating climate legislation is busy meeting with representatives of the world’s biggest contributors to the current carbon situation.

John Kerry is my senator. Lindsey Graham may be a Republican, but he’s been making vaguely sensible noises about climate. After Lieberman’s grotesque behavior over health care it’s hard to take him seriously, but he is apparently much more resolute on climate than on HCR.

But I gotta say, it’s a sad day when two-thirds of my hope for substantial climate legislation rests with Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman.

Anyway, they got a letter.

Dear Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman,

I am a constituent of Senator Kerry’s, and a firm believer in the need to address the issue of global climate change immediately. America must regulate its emissions of CO2; once we commit ourselves, much of the rest of the world will follow suit. We cannot pretend to be a world leader if we wait for other nations to go first.

I’m glad that the three of you are developing a climate bill, and I hope that it is sufficiently robust to make a difference. But I was very distressed to learn that you had met recently with “hydrocarbon enablers” like the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, major electric utilities, the National Association of Manufacturers, the cement industry, and mining interests, and that (according to The LA Times) your message to these groups was, “Tell us what you need to support this bill. Be specific.”

It should be obvious to the meanest intelligence that the API, the Chamber of Commerce and the rest of these organizations will only support climate legislation if it does not affect them in the slightest. While I am in principle a supporter of “good faith” negotiations, there must surely be a point where the principle of good faith has been abused irretrievably. The world’s largest contributors to our CO2 dilemma are not interested in anything except gutting meaningful climate legislation; asking them for their support is an absurdity.

We need a totally new energy equation in this country, and we need it soon. The changes in the world’s climate are too huge and too potentially devastating to allow our country’s biggest polluters to stand in the way of action; “business as usual” is only a plan for profit, not a plan for the planet.

Do not allow industry representatives to weaken your climate bill. Make it stronger instead. Much stronger.

We’re counting on you.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders