Back To The Bluster

Image of Jim Inhofe from TPM

Get ready for at least two more years of political blustering and stunts over climate change from Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, who is expected to become chair again of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the EPW Committee, has wasted no time getting back into his contentious groove, and, in his new position, he will have no problem getting all the media attention he craves. This week, for example, he lambasted President Barack Obama for signing an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. It was widely reported.

According to Inhofe, the agreement is a “non-binding charade” and vows to fight the White House on new rules governing polluting emissions from power plants in this country. Inhofe is infamous for calling global warming a hoax and a left-wing conspiracy among scientists.

Of course, Inhofe misses the point that the agreement is supposed to be viewed on the world stage as a important symbolic gesture. How we monitor and measure a decline in carbon emissions over the years will always be problematic. What’s important is that there’s a discussion among important world leaders about climate change. For example, the agreement has spurred new discussions among Canadian government officials about curbing greenhouse gas emissions, according to a news report. That’s one of the points of such agreements between countries.

Under the agreement, the United States would reduce its carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025. China would cap its emissions by 2030 and commit to generating 20 percent of its energy from non fossil fuels sources by 2030.

China and the United States account for 45 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The agreement is ambitious, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be implemented in good faith. Any reduction in carbon emissions would be good for the planet. Right now, global warming threatens the world’s eco systems, and, in the future, rising sea levels due to climate change could wreak havoc on major coastal cites throughout the world. This could lead to major population migrations and severely depressed economies never experienced before.

It’s no secret that Inhofe will stand in the way of progress on reducing carbon emissions. As I have written before, most media outlets when reporting on Inhofe’s latest rage against Obama or environmentalists or climate scientists fail to note that he has received more than $1.7 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry in his political career, according to Inhofe is a de facto spokesperson for fossil-fuel profiteers and represents a state that is experiencing a major energy boom because of hydraulic fracturing or fracking. The fact that Inhofe’s financial ties to the oil and gas industry often go unmentioned is a testament to how the corporate media has complacently accepted and implicitly endorsed the role of big money in our political process.

I expect a political correction on a national level in the 2016 elections. Starting in 2015, however, Republicans will control the Senate and House for two years, and they are indicating they plan to block and stonewall any White House proposals, even to the point of shutting down the government. Inhofe will be a part of this onslaught when it comes to climate change. It’s apparent already the Republicans will overreach and remind voters of the George W. Bush presidency, which was a debacle of right-wing extremism, but that’s not going to make it any easier to stomach.

A Sad Environment: Inhofe Could Be Back In Charge

Image of U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe

One of the most significant fallouts of Tuesday’s election, as I mentioned briefly in my last post, is that Oklahoma’s own U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe is expected to become chair again of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Republicans now have control of the Senate, and Inhofe is the ranking GOP member of the EPW Committee.

In short, this is extremely bad news for the planet. Inhofe, who will soon turn 80, has led a crusade through the years trying and failing to dispute scientific evidence that manmade carbon emissions have contributed to global warming. This crusade, which includes constant blithering criticism of the Environmental Protect Agency, has been the centerpiece of his political career. It has made him infamous throughout the world.

Those voters who supported Inhofe here, along with media outlets such as The Oklahoman, are directly responsible for what is or isn’t going to happen next when it comes to climate change. If this country declines to take action to help stop global warming and reduce carbon emissions, the planet’s future is bleak. It could be cataclysmic unless there’s an election correction in 2016.

As you know, Inhofe has called the science explaining climate change and global warming a “hoax.” The title of his 2012 book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, is a blunt, straightforward statement of his position. What Inhofe has done is help create the idea that there’s a raging “debate” about global warming when, in fact, there’s no debate. There’s only basic scientific evidence that the planet is getting warmer, the arctic ice cap is melting and sea levels are rising because of manmade carbon dioxide emissions. We might debate what we should do in light of this evidence, but the science is clear.

Inhofe has received a lot of national press attention after Tuesday’s election because he’s likely to become chair of the EPW Committee, which he led from 2003 to 2008. Here’s an excellent piece in The Washington Post about him.

What much of the recent coverage of Inhofe has failed to note, however, is how much campaign money he has received from the oil and gas industry through the years. Since 1989, Inhofe has received more than $1.7 million in campaign contributions from oil and gas interests, according to The media coverage usually notes in some form, of course, that Inhofe comes from a state rich in fossil fuels, but it doesn’t refer directly to the campaign money. Maybe this is because the direct relationship between a politician and the interests of his largest campaign contributors these days is so obvious that it doesn’t even need mentioning. I still think it does.

So let me state the obvious: Inhofe has always done the bidding of large oil and gas companies. As chair of the EPW Committee, he will have even more influence and power to serve their interests.

It’s unclear what exactly Inhofe can do in the next two years because of the potential for White House vetoes, but he is sure to create a lot of noise and engage in political theatrical performances over issues such as global warming and curbing power-plant emissions. He’s also going to support and encourage hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, an oil and gas extraction method, which is extremely harmful to the environment and has led to a glut in oil and gas production.

It’s going to be a frustrating two years, or even more, for people concerned about the environment and the overall health of the planet. As the New Republic proclaimed in an online headline about Inhofe, “Congratulations, Voters. You Just Made This Climate Denier the Most Powerful Senator on the Environment.”

Inhofe Politicizes Ebola Outbreak

Image of Jim Inhofe from TPM

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe won’t even let the deadly Ebola virus get in the way of one of his political stunts.

Last week, Inhofe single handedly but temporarily held up $750 million in federal funding for the Department of Defense to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. The House had earlier approved the funding but when it came to the Senate, Inhofe, a ranking Republican member of the Armed Services Committee that considered the legislation, held it up.

Inhofe cited concerns about what he later called a “lack of a coherent strategy” about how the funds would be used. Meanwhile, as Inhofe equivocated, Ebola cases have appeared in the United States, and the outbreak in the west African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone continues to kill a growing number of people.

On Friday, Inhofe finally relented and released a statement saying he had changed his mind. Trying to score political points, his statement, of course, was highly critical of the Obama administration, citing the “slow response by the President's State Department and international community . . . ” to the Ebola crisis. Here’s how the statement ended:

. . . because of the failure of the Obama Administration to responsibly and strategically plan in advance for how the U.S. will be involved in West Africa, it will be difficult for me to support any further last-minute funding requests using military resources. That is why I have insisted another more appropriate funding source be identified for operations beyond six months. Significant cuts to the defense budget have eroded the readiness and capabilities of our military, and I cannot support the indefinite commitment of our troops to this mission.

So try to follow Inhofe’s logic. The Obama administration was slow to respond and strategically plan so, in response, Inhofe decides to delay things even further. It doesn’t make sense because Inhofe’s real point is really to just criticize the president in an election year. Politicizing the Ebola virus may well be a new low for Inhofe, but I would have to do a thorough search through my memory bank to be entirely sure. People are dying after contracting the Ebola virus even as I write this, and Americans are increasingly worried about a major outbreak here, but that doesn’t seem to affect Inhofe.

Note the other contradiction in Inhofe’s statement. If defense cuts have actually “eroded the readiness and capabilities of our military,” which they haven’t, then wouldn’t it make more sense to actually be immediately in favor of more and not less funding for any type of military operation? Wouldn’t that help our “readiness”? Shouldn’t the military be “ready” for virus epidemics? The Defense Department, for example, had initially requested $1 billion. The money will come from an account used to fund military operations in Afghanistan.

Inhofe’s political stunts continue to attract little to no criticism from the corporate media in this state, which is a shame because Inhofe is not a good ambassador for Oklahoma in many parts of the country and world. Perhaps we have all become so used to Inhofe’s extremism and political stunts that we’ve become numb or immune. Inhofe is expected to win reelection in November so it appears we’ll have to endure his right-wing extremism for another six years. So it goes in Oklahoma these days.

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