Waxman-Markey Passes in House

The first major piece of environmental legislation passed in the House today. The vote was 219-212, which means all of the individual campaigning that happened at Powershift and in the follow-up meetings was crucial in convincing some of the fencesitters (hooray!)

As the Times article notes, though, the bill was heavily compromised in order to get the votes: “the bill’s targets for emissions of heat-trapping gases were weakened, its mandate for renewable electricity was scaled back, and incentives for industries were sweetened.” In specifics, this means that bullshit “innovations” such as “clean coal” and nuclear power plants are endorsed in the bill– in fact, far more than renewable energy resources. This Guardian article provides a good global perspective on the bill, and George Monbiot provides, um, a more cynical perspective.

Representative Zack Space (of my district at school in Ohio) did vote to pass the bill, but he faced some complex pressures and never became the champion we needed him to be. Honestly, I do have a bit of sympathy for the guy (and not just because he’s a Kenyon alum)– he’s a Representative from coal country hoping to push through major environmental legislation. It sounds like he was holding out, undecided, until late in the vote.

On an amusing sidenote, Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona called the bill “communist.” It’s very interesting to me how the act of taking (personal and collective) responsibility has become associated with communism, while “individual liberty” has come to mean “freedom from responsibility.”

The bright side of all of this is, we are finally a country with (almost) environmental legislation! The U.S. has lagged severely behind other nations in addressing climate change, and at least we’ll have something to talk about at Copenhagen in December.

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