Today I taped an upcoming TV debate criticizing the House Republican vote to defund the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as ordered by the US Supreme Court. My opponent in the debate, Fred Smith, argued that Obama’s EPA was a “rogue” agency hell-bent on killing jobs and harming small businesses. I reminded Mr. Smith that Obama’s EPA ordered that small businesses be exempt from the proposed greenhouse gas emission rules, as only large entities emitting at least 25,000 tons of CO2 per year would be subject to the regulations. Now, it is unclear whether the EPA can legally exclude such small emitters from the rules, as the Clean Air Act doesn’t expressly allow for it. But instead of working with the Administration on clarifying the law to ensure that we have a science-based approach to addressing climate change that goes after major corporate polluters while holding small businesses harmless, but instead they are pursuing a cynical strategy to demonize public health protections and question the science. This is particularly appauling given the high-profile flip-flop of Rep. Fred Upton, who in the recent past acknowledged the science behind climate change and supported legislative efforts to address it – but now leads the effort to attack the science and demonize efforts to protect public health. Shame, Mr. Upton, Shame.

Tyson Slocum Directs Public Citizen’s Energy Program

With Oil prices briefly breaching $100/barrel, some are dusting off the tired playbook of “drill baby drill” and calling for an expansion of domestic oil and gas drilling – ignoring the point that opening up “access to the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf regions [currently off-limits] would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030.” The Energy Information Administration estimates that if the ban on drilling remains in place, that “the average U.S. price of motor gasoline price is 3 cents per gallon higher” than if we open these areas to drilling. That’s because the US isn’t Saudi Arabia: we sit on only 1.6% of the world’s oil reserves, while the Saudis have 20%. Dumping our little pond of oil into the giant sea of global reserves can’t make a significant dent on our imports or impact prices.

Some argue that recent unrest in Egypt & Libya present legitimate threats to supply and therefore justify the oil price run-up. While Libya is an oil exporter, the Saudis have already lined up replacement exports and it doesn’t appear that the protests engulfing the region are going to hit Saudi Arabia anytime soon.

What will make a significant dent in the short term is clamping down on the excessive speculation that’s driving the higher prices. To be sure, speculation has a necessary role, but it’s one thing for speculators to operate on the margins, and it’s quite another for them to dominate and drive the market. Congress understood this when they passed the Dodd-Frank Act last year, which, among other things, ordered the CFTC to restore transparency to these energy trading markets. But under intense industry lobbying, the CFTC is punting on some of the more critical rules, including establishing firm position limits.

So here’s what Congress can do right away to address the problem:

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People are taking action across the country to mark the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that corporate political spending is the same thing as real speech by real people.

Left unchecked, the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling will have grave consequences for our democracy. In last fall’s elections, corporate spending soared, and sources of outside spending were kept secret. This outside money was a major factor in 80 percent of the races where power changed hands.

Now, any lawmaker who is interested in standing against corporate interests has to figure out how to say ‘no’ to corporate lobbyists wielding the resources to replace him or her with a more corporate-friendly lawmaker.

But We, the People are mobilizing to fight back.

From Massachusetts to Oregon, Florida to Alaska, more than 100 demonstrations are being held throughout the nation.
Even a group of socially conscious business corporations, led by Ben & Jerry’s, is standing up to assert that we need a constitutional amendment to stop the corporate takeover of our democracy.

Nearly a million concerned citizens have signed petitions calling on Congress to pass such a constitutional amendment — petitions that will be delivered to Congress at noon today (Public Citizen’s petition is at www.DontGetRolled.org).

If you’re participating in today’s actions, be sure to take pictures, make videos, blog and tweet about what you’re doing. You can share your photos, videos and other documentation with us by sending an email to action@citizen.org, sending a tweet to @Public_Citizen or posting it on our Facebook page.

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Karl Rove, former senior advisor to President George W. Bush, published a column today in the Wall Street Journal. The article, entitled “ObamaCare Isn’t Inevitable,” derides President Obama’s ideas of a public option for health insurance and blames the inability of Congress to put together health care reform on the American people.

Citing a Resurgent Republic (a group he calls a “nonprofit, right-of-center education organization” whose creation he assisted with) poll released Tuesday, Rove declares that “by a 60%-to-31% margin, Americans prefer getting their health coverage through private insurance rather than the federal government.”

Hold on, Mr. Rove. A New York Times/CBS News poll was released on Saturday, and its findings are a bit different:

The national telephone survey…found that 72 percent of those questioned supported a government-administered insurance plan — something like Medicare for those under 65 — that would compete for customers with private insurers…The proposal received broad bipartisan backing, with half of those who call themselves Republicans saying they would support a public plan, along with nearly three-fourths of independents and almost nine in 10 Democrats.

So if it has such broad support, why hasn’t health care reform made much progress since it began a little less than a month ago? The answer: lobbyists. Remember how the American Medical Association (AMA) told Congress it “does not believe creating a public health insurance option… is the best way to expand health insurance coverage and lower costs”? Well since the 2000 election cycle, its political action committee has contributed $9.8 million to Congressional candidates.

This weekend, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus is taking a break from health care reform to hold a fundraiser, where lobbyists can pay thousands to hang out with the senator. Our own Craig Holman, Public Citizen’s Legislative Representative, recently told CQ Politics:

It’s unseemly to be doing this just before the markup [of Baucus’ draft health care bill]…This kind of schmoozing of lawmakers clearly buys influence.

When the AMA, insurers and pharmaceutical companies get involved, they are going to look out for the best interests of those they represent, and that isn’t the American people.

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