Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rockefeller, Trucks, and Coal Money


Sharing the freeways with 18-wheelers has always been part of my life as a driver. Long-haul trucks have passed me, I've passed them. My son sees them and exclaims, "Frucks!!" My wife and I smirk and tell him to be careful how he pronounces that. So it goes.

If newly proposed EPA standards for trucks and school buses go into effect, we will see a day when those trucks are smaller -- and perhaps there will be more of them. Indeed, one has to wonder if the greenhouse emissions will simply be spread across a greater number of smaller vehicles. The trucking industry is not up in arms, as it happens.

But Senator Rockefeller sure doesn't like it.

We have a newly empowered EPA, owing to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that recognized its authority to enforce its own rules, because according to the Clean Air Act the EPA must regulate greenhouse emissions.

Given the failure of the legislative branch to act on our very serious ecological problems, this gives the EPA some limited power to hold down emissions while the rest of the state, hopefully, wakes up and begins to plan. That hope may be dwindling, however, given the slate of candidates for the House and Senate in 2010 who still deny climate science, and hold up global warming as some hoax.

But Jay Rockefeller seems like a sensible fellow. Why is he going after the EPA's power to regulate greenhouse emissions? He says it is because such regulations should be left to elected legislators, not to non-elected agencies like the EPA. This argument would make sense if representation in the Congress was actually democratic, rather than plutocratic.

Let's look at Rockefeller's campaign donors, shall we?

#4, Peabody Energy. #8, American Electric Power. And numerous other industrial donors near the top of the list.

This is evidence, if not definitive proof, of a plutocratic position. In this instance, Rockefeller is introducing a "message bill" that likely would not pass in the lame duck session (but it could be taken up in a Republican-dominated Congress). Instead of being D-WV, the Senator may be acting as D-Peabody.

And this suggests an answer to Rockefeller's objection. The people cannot trust these "elected" (read: corporate-sponsored) representatives to legislate in our interest over the interests of capital. The reduction in emissions that the EPA demands would also apply to coal production and require the coal industry to pay out more more cleaner emissions.

West Virginia, Rockefeller's state, is often referred to by the media as a "coal state" as if the whole place were merely a coal field bereft of families, workers, children, retirees, and so on. So perhaps that is why the media accounts of Rockefeller's bill to curb the EPA aren't pointing out that he is acting in the interest of his corporate sponsors. This is not the high-minded wrangling of a democratic process. This is nitty-gritty money politics.

Which might not bother you, but did you know it is killing us?

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