Newt King Coal & Other Big Oil Buffoons

REPOST from Sierra Club [photo credit]

Issue #283
April 24, 2009
Newt King Coal & Other Big Oil Buffoons
Josh Dorner

This week, the defenders of dirty energy really, really outdid themselves in their efforts to try and derail the clean energy jobs plan currently starting to wend its way through the House of Representatives. The House Energy & Commerce Committee held a marathon series of hearings on the plan, with testimony from more than 60 people, including EPA Administrator Jackson, Energy Secretary Chu, business leaders, environmentalists, economists, and so many more. If the strategy was to give Big Oil’s besties enough rope to hang themselves, well, they more than obliged.

The hearing was capped off this morning with appearances by Nobel Laureate and former Vice President Al Gore and former Republican Virginia Senator John Warner, one of his party’s most respected voices on national security and the lead sponsor of last year’s Senate global warming bill. They offered rational, reasoned, and bipartisan support for the bill because of its positive impacts on our planet, on our national security, and, most importantly, our economy. The bill received another boost this morning when Rep. Dingell, former chairman of the committee and a longtime antagonist on climate issues, predicted it would pass.

And so, just who did the beleaguered and increasingly erratic minority on the committee choose to follow these two elder statesmen? A washed-up buffoon, would-be presidential candidate, and one of the most divisive political figures in America: Newt Gingrich. The defenders of dirty energy are so intellectually bankrupt that they sound just like a broken record of lies, mistruths, and distortions. 

One look at Newt’s testimony (pdf) shows that the when this particular broken record scratched, it went all the way back to 2001 and the heady days of Cheney Energy Taskforce. Newt’s so-called “plan” was merely a re-tread of these failed, dirty, and dangerous energy ideas: offshore drilling, oil shale, Arctic drilling, tax breaks for Big Oil, bribing states to allow more drilling, eviscerating environmental regulations, “green” coal (yes, he really calls it that!), nukes, and other such nonsense.

He did borrow one idea from a more recent leader in his party — Senator McCain’s idea to run the energy economy like a game show with various prizes for energy technologies instead of the kind of real investments and real policies that will actually build the clean energy future. We all know how well that one worked out

Newt did come up with one seemingly novel idea — new tax breaks for Big Coal! This is hardly surprising, considering that his latest vanity project, an AstroTurf production company called American Solutions for Winning the Future, has received over $250,000 from Peabody Coal.

It also recently used some of the millions it has received from a cabal of hyperconservative billionaires to help put on America’s favorite wingnut traveling circus, the “tea party.”

As if foisting the tea parties on America wasn’t enough, we are also to learn that the current GOP leadership in Congress has “studied Mr. Gingrich’s years in power and had been in regular touch with him as he sought to help his party find the right tone and message.” Considering that Gingrich came last in a new poll of potential challengers to Obama in 2012, this might also explain the dismal poll standings of said GOP leaders.

Unfortunately, Newt just capped off a week of tomfoolery from Big Oil’s besties on the committee. Here’s a children’s treasury of some of the lowlights.

Rep. Shimkus (R-IL), when he wasn’t too busy attacking the $983 billion in economic benefits offered by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 because he claims it hurt Peabody Coal, denounced the clean energy jobs plan as the “worst assault on democracy and freedom” EVER. Worse even than 9/11 and both wars we’re currently fighting — and worse still than even the Clinton impeachment! Believe it.

Rep. “Smokey Joe” Barton, the energy panel’s Ranking Member, went on a diatribe against hybrid cars yesterday, saying that the American people would only buy them if forced to buy the government, “backed by the army.”  Did I mention that GM makes hybrid vehicles in his district? This, however, was nothing — NOTHING — compared to a tortured exchange between Barton and Energy Secretary (and Nobel Laureate) Chu. It’s unclear what Barton was trying to get it, but our friends at Media Matters called it “Barton v. Pangaea.”  Dr. Chu gently reminded Barton of this little thing we call plate tectonics aka the Continental Drift Theory. This particular exchange was later rendered even more bizarre when Barton’s own staff put out a press release and video of the embarrassing change, claiming it was Barton who “stumped” Secretary Chu. Stumped by sheer idiocy? Yes.

For a long, sad list of other such bloviations, ch


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