House Republicans undermine Obama’s environmental plans

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Determined to protect their fossil-fuel backers from the financial consequences of the environmental policies put forward under President Barack Obama’s green energy agenda, House Republicans on July 11 attached a bevy of amendments to the fiscal 2015 energy and water spending bill. The amendments slash funding for renewable energy programs while showering ridiculous sums of taxpayer dollars on the already hugely profitable and heavily subsidized fossil-fuel industry.

Politico analyzed the amendments, which lie buried in the bill’s fine print, and reported they will delay efforts to modernize the nation’s renewable energy infrastructure. The amendments offer yet more evidence that the GOP seems intent on hastening environmental destruction, costing the nation the high-paying jobs associated with developing an effective renewable energy industry and increasing our dependence on foreign oil.

Republicans would rather force Americans to buy oil from Middle Eastern nations that use the profits to wage war against us than to curry disfavor with the oil and coal barons who liberally line their pockets.

The billionaire Koch brothers and their network of allies have vowed to spend $290 million this year alone to buy political offices for lawmakers who support their industry. Selling out the planet and their constituents appears to be the price those lawmakers have to pay for that money. This is not what democracy looks like. It’s what a nation wholly owned by massively rich special interests looks like.

According to Politico, the GOP amendments will:

1. Slash funding for renewable energy programs in the Department of Energy while boosting funding for coal and other fossil fuels. 

2. Prevent the Department of Energy from enforcing efficiency standards for light bulbs and eliminate incentives to swap out low-efficiency toilets for models that conserve water. 

3. Stop the Department of Energy from spending any funds to “design, implement, administer or carry out specified assessments regarding climate change.”

It’s not as if the fossil fuel industry has suffered under Obama. According to Oil Change International, an advocacy group, federal and state subsidies for fossil-fuel production in the United States topped $37 billion a year in 2013.

The group also noted that in 2011–12, the fossil-fuel industry spent $329 million in campaign finance contributions and received $33 billion in federal subsidies. That amounts to a 10,000 percent return on political investment.

On June 1, shortly before the White House announced plans to enforce new carbon emissions cuts and unveil a new government blueprint on clean energy, environmental groups were ecstatically predicting an explosion of activity in the renewable energies sector.

“If you’re working in the solar or wind industry, you should feel very happy right now,” said Mike Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “It’s clear that those are going to be the industries to work in, invest in and watch. They’re about to explode in terms of growth.”

It’s unclear what impact the Republicans’ amendments will have on this rosy outlook. But it’s entirely clear that the fossil fuel-industry exercises unbridled control over the GOP, and that efforts to bring America’s renewable energies up to the modern standards of European nations will always fight an uphill battle against unscrupulous, uber-rich donors who would gladly destroy the Earth to get even richer.

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