Thursday, June 25, 2009

Republicans make climate bill an issue for 2010

As Democrats move the climate-change bill to the House floor for a vote Friday, Republicans have served notice that they will try to make it a voting issue in next year's elections. The impact of the bill is likely to be greater in rural areas, which depend more on coal for electricity and have many animal-agriculture operations for which power is a major cost factor. The bill is "the single, largest, economic threat to farmers and rural Americans in decades," claimed Rep. Frank Lucas, ranking Republican on the House Agriculture Committee. Chairman Collin Peterson told CQ Politics that the vote might be delayed until Saturday because "There are still some things that are being worked out." Democratic leaders are "hoping to build a big enough margin so that vulnerable Democrats can be freed to vote against it," Lisa Lerer and Patrick O'Connor report for Politico.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is still not supporting the bill, though co-ops and other small, coal-dependent utlities got a break in the negotiations that brought the bill to the floor. The co-ops get 80 percent of their electricity from coal-fired power plants; for all utilities, the figure is just under 50 percent. Former Rep. Glenn English, CEO of NRECA, said “We still have concerns about this bill [but] will not stand in the way of passage.”

The National Pork Producers Council said it "anticipates significant increases in energy prices and in pork production costs under the House climate change bill. The hikes would be overwhelming to pork producers, who for the past 21 months have been losing an average of $22 per hog" and have been hit hard by the H1N1 influenza virus, which some media outlets are still calling "swine flu." NPPC said it "doesn’t believe that revenues from the sale of offset credits for the majority of pork producers would counterbalance the energy and input cost increases associated with bill.”

The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives also opposes the bill, saying, "NCFC continues to have serious reservations about the impact that HR 2454 will have on the cost of production for farmer cooperatives and their producer members across the country. This is especially true of farmer cooperative-owned petroleum refineries, which supply nearly two-thirds of on-farm fuel, and of domestic fertilizer producers." However, the National Association of Wheat Growers and the National Farmers Union support the legislation. Bob Meyer of Brownfield Network has a roundup.

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