Washington – Sen. Bernie Sanders voted Thursday to oppose a sweeping global warming bill because he does not believe it is strong enough to prevent catastrophic climate change by the middle of this century.
“This bill is in fact a step forward, but we have a very long way to go to produce a bill that will truly reduce global warming and reflect what the scientific community tells us needs to be done,” the independent senator said after the vote by a key Senate panel.
The legislation, by Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.; and John Warner, R-Va., narrowly survived a 4-3 vote by members of a global warming subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Sanders voted with two Republican members against the bill that would reduce global warming emissions from power plants, factories and motor vehicles by about 50 percent to 60 percent by 2050.
The bill, expected to come to a vote of the full Senate committee this month, poses a dilemma for Sanders and his allies in the environmental community. It is seen as the first major effort by Congress to fight global warming, but it falls short of the goals scientists say must be achieved to stop widespread drought, flooding and other devastating climate change.
“This bill is too weak in a number of ways,” Sanders said. “Number one and most importantly, it does not reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, which the scientific community is telling us very clearly must be done for us to have even a 50-50 chance of keeping the planet from catastrophe. The bill would lower emissions by up to 63 percent. But that’s just not good enough.”
Sanders also objected to the legislation because it would allow new coal-fired power plants to be built. Coal-fired plants are a major contributor to global warming, many scientists say.
The senator is concerned that the bill offers no guaranteed funding for clean energy sources such as solar and wind. The bill offers subsidies to the coal industry to develop cleaner coal-burning technology and to the automobile industry to re-tool plants to create more fuel-efficient cars.
“There are a lot of politics that are going on here,” Sanders said. “Coal is an important industry in Montana, Wyoming, West Virginia, Virginia and other states. So the coal industry is very powerful here in Washington. The solar and wind industries don’t have that kind of clout.”
Sanders said he would work with other senators to try to improve the bill before it comes before the full environment committee. He said he does not expect it to reach the Senate floor before next year.
Sanders won approval for one of the nine amendments he offered to strengthen the bill. The amendment requires automakers to produce vehicles that get an average of 35 miles per gallon in order for auto plants to qualify for federal aid to re-tool.
Sanders’ vote to oppose the bill drew praise from the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.
“Senators Lieberman and Warner deserve credit for pushing action on global warming, but Vermont’s Senator Bernie Sanders deserves the highest praise for not supporting the bill, which does more to support corporate welfare than it does to reduce global warming pollution,” the group said in a written statement Thursday.
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