In introducing the “American Power Act” on May 12, 2010, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) seemed oblivious to the various public relations disasters the industries favored in their bill had suffered in recent weeks. In short order, we have witnessed: an explosion at a Massey coal mine in West Virginia, in which 29 workers were killed; BP’s unfolding oil catastrophe, wherein 11 workers were killed in what is proving to be the worst offshore oil industry disaster in U.S. history in the Gulf of Mexico; and the contamination of the groundwater supply of much of southern New Jersey by a tritium leak from the aging Oyster Creek nuclear power plant.

Unabashed, the two senators took to the podium accompanied by nuclear and coal industry titans (though nary an oil exec in sight) to introduce a bill that subsidizes nuclear power, “clean” coal (an oxymoron, if there ever was one), and incentivizes states’ support for offshore oil drilling, while gutting the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions as pollutants under the Clean Air Act. In addition, despite an Interpol investigation into organized crime’s involvement in forest carbon offsets and massive tax fraud in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, Senator Kerry promised the bill would provide “additional carbon offsets”. Do we really need more than the 2 billion tons of carbon offsets per year already provided under the House-passed Waxman-Markey bill? The U.S. Government Accountability Office studied carbon offsets and found them impossible to verify. This quantity of carbon offsets means the U.S. could make no verifiable emissions reductions until at least 2030, making the 17 percent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels promised by 2020 meaningless in the short-term — when it’s needed most. We can and indeed we must do better.

Daphne Wysham co-directs the SEEN project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Follow her on Twitter!

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