UPDATE 2:27pm: This is how the GOP's chosen spokesman responds to our economic, energy and climate crises: Jacuzzi jokes. And you wonder why Congressional Republicans have a 69% disapproval rating.
We've spent all week glued to the House Energy & Commerce Committee video feed, taking notes for you on the committee's hearings on the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. That's the draft clean energy & climate legislation introduced by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA).
But today is the main event. Set to testify are Al Gore and Newt Gingrich. The question is, which Newt will show up? "Look at Me, I'm Centrist and Presidential" Newt who cut an ad for Gore's We Campaign declaring "our country must take action to address climate change"? Or "I Need GOP Base Street Cred & My 527 Needs Big Oil Money" Newt, who used voodoo economics to trash President Obama's clean energy & climate action plan?
Minute-by-minute notes after the jump.
2:38pm: Rep. Markey thanks Newt and puts the committee into recess.
OK, five straight hours of live-blogging is enough for me. You can keep watching the hearings on C-SPAN or at CSPAN.org. Thanks for following along!
2:27pm: Waxman/Markey contains provisions to require certain appliances to meet efficiency standards. Newt seizes on this to say Democrats want to regulate your jacuzzi. Haw haw!
This is how the GOP's chosen spokesman responds to our economic, energy and climate crises: Jacuzzi jokes. And you wonder why Congressional Republicans have an amazing 69 percent disapproval rating.
2:16pm: Newt's plan, boiled down -- whatever forms of energy have massive lobbying dollars behind them are the ones we should go with.
2:12pm: Newt's at his holier-than-thou, snarky worst. No wonder everyone still hates him (August 2007 Rasmussen poll: 58% Have Unfavorable Opinion of Cheney, 54% Say the Same About Gingrich). And this is the best guy the GOP could dredge up to counter Nobel prize winner Al Gore?
2:05pm: What's with Rep. Upton's bright pink shirt, no suit coat necessary?
2:02pm: House Democrats are teeing off on Newt like he was a giant, bloated pinata. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) has a quote from Newt in 2007 supporting of carbon cap-and-trade. Newt dances around the question and says we need more incentives/giveaways for industry and more nuclear power.
Flashback to Newt's "drill, baby, drill" days last summer: Newt's Got a Song.
1:44pm: Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) says let's be honest about what testimony like Newt's is about -- scare tactics.
1:40pm: Who wants to take America back to the 1800s? Democrats who want to develop next-generation energy technology? Or people like Newt Gingrich and Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) who are using these hearings to promote "biomass from federal forests" -- a.k.a. wood-burning power.
1:32pm: Wow, the euphemism hits keep coming! Newt says he'd support an incentivized bill. In plain English, this means Newt would support massive giveaways of taxpayer dollars to currently-polluting energy companies with no benchmarks for success.
1:30pm: "A dialogue ought to be both ways." Just like Newt tries to have it?
1:29pm: Newt was a college history professor, so it only makes sense he include plenty of revisionist history in his testimony. Newt tries to claim the canceling of the FutureGen "clean" coal demonstration plant was a managerial failure of the Dept. of Energy. In reality, it was the Bush administration admitting carbon capture in storage is not ready for prime time.
1:24pm: Newt's on! This should be good.
1:11pm: Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) thanks Gore & Warner, calling them two of America's greatest citizens, and puts the committee into recess.
1:02pm: Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) tries to accuse Gore of making personal profit from his climate work. Gore says of course I've invested in clean energy and I've put every penny into the Alliance for Climate Protection. Gore forcefully replies, "Congresswoman, if you think I've been working on this for 30 years because of greed, you don't know me." Pwned.
12:52pm: Speaking of denier rants, Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA) has arrived to blast ... are you ready for this? The delta smelt. Rep. Radanovich calls it "a worthless little worm" (it's actually a fish) that deserves to go extinct.
I don't watch Congress every day so I don't know how these things work. But committee Republicans seem to be making a total mockery of "questioning" witnesses. Rep. Radanovich just ranted for his full five minutes straight without asking a question. When Gore tried to respond, Rep. Radanovich immediately cut him off. Fortunately, Rep. Markey stepped in to reprimand Rep. Radanovich and allowed Gore to answer.
12:45pm: Rep. Edward Markey reminds committee members not to rant about denier science and destroying the economy for five minutes, then complain about running out of time when the witness tries to actually respond.
12:33pm: Wow, the denial crowd is setting the bar awfully high in these hearings. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) just claimed that Waxman/Markey was designed by Enron. For the record, Enron collapsed eight years ago. Talk about tilting at windmills.
12:27pm: Committee Republicans have a clear strategy of not letting Gore finish his answers.
12:15pm: Rep. Burgess: "For the record, I would not support a carbon tax." ARE YOU KIDDING??? You're going to admit you just wasted our time with the whole "why not a carbon tax" pander? I feel like Fred Savage in The Princess Bride. Jesus, Grandpa, what'd you read me this thing for?
12:13pm: Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) asks why we're debating carbon cap instead of a carbon tax. The head of ExxonMobil recently asked the same thing. Basically, this is the equivalent of saying, "What plan are we not debating right now? Then I support that."
Rep. Burgess asks "why are we picking winners and losers?" What does he think we're doing right now? We allow free, limitless pollution of carbon emissions. We subsidize the production of oil and coal. We finance military operations in the Middle East to protect our oil interests.
Could one Republican member let Gore finish his answers without trying to interrupt him?
12:08pm: Does Rep. GK Butterfield (D-NC) get that a significant portion of the revenue from a cap on carbon pollution will be redistributed to consumers? He seems terribly concerned about the bill costing households 30 cents a day, but made no reference to how the revenue will be used/distributed.
12:03pm: What's with committee Republicans wasting hearing time to take surveys? Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA) is asking every witness if they want a "transparent" hearing for the bill. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) is asking every witness if they've read the entire draft bill (then complaining he didn't get enough time for questions).
Clear some space in the Euphemism Hall of Fame. It's not logging -- Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) calls it treating the forest (to lower risk of forest fire).
11:54am: Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) - "Many of us believe the costs of inaction are much greater than the costs of action."
11:42am: Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) - "Nobody realizes that cap-and-trade is a tax, and a great big one." Oy.
11:39am: Here's a link to today's New York Times article Gore just referenced, Industry Ignored Its Scientists on Climate.
11:34am: Smokey Joe won't let Gore finish his answer. Classy. "I don't know about this scientific peer-review you just talked about," says Barton. That about sums up Rep. Joseph Linus Barton, doesn't it?
11:33am: Gore says "it's important to look at the sources we rely on" for our science. The people you've trusted have given you bad information." Oh snap! Gore compares people who take their science advice from global warming deniers to people who took their financial advice from Bernie Madoff.
11:29am: Rep. "Smokey" Joe Barton (R-TX) seems to have nothing to offer but bad jokes. While he does his Henny Youngman impression, I'll link you to the Sierra Club's live blog of the hearings.
11:26am: Chairman Waxman reminds us we were told the Clean Air Act would cost billions to fix our acid rain problem. As it turned out, the problem was solved at 1/10th of the predicted cost.
11:25am: Gore says we have two paths we can choose -- "we can keep on being hostage to OPEC" vs. "we can decide we're going to control our own destiny." Electric cars run on the equivalent of $1 a gallon gas, but we need to invest in the technology.
11:17am: Gore says "I'm not anti-nuclear," but we have to consider storage, accident and national security concerns -- do you want every country in the world (stable or not) to have nuclear plants or do you want them to have solar farms? Also points out the issue of massive cost and that it's not cost-effective to scale-down nuclear plants to meet electricity needs in smaller regions.
11:14am: Gore says steelworkers are on board with carbon cap-and-trade. Gore says significance of China is "way larger" than India and that while India is dragging its feet, China is moving much faster than the U.S. on clean energy. Warner asks China to "pull on the oar with the rest of us."
Check this out -- House Energy & Commerce Chairman Emeritus John Dingell (D-MI) predicts to Politico that Congress will pass a meaningful energy reform bill this year.
11:09am: Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) is absolutely obsessed with a recent article in the Washington Post talking about how India won't act on carbon emissions before we do. He must've referenced it a dozen times this week already.
11:08am: Gore says we're in the trance phase of a global oil shock-and-trance cycle. We get shocked by high oil prices, then when the oil prices go down, we're lulled into a false sense of security. Gore says we need a "bipartisan national will to shake off the trance."
10:51am: Sen. Warner - "If we keep on with business as usual, we will reach a point where the worst effects are inevitable."
10:49am: Opening statement from former Sen. John Warner (R-VA). "Future generations will look back and see what we did, and maybe what we didn't, do."
Quick story -- the National Wildlife Federation had a news conference last year with sportsmen from across the country calling for action on clean energy & climate. A reporter asked Sen. Warner if members of Congress pay attention to hunters & anglers.
Sen. Warner was emphatic. "There isn't a legislator worth his salt who doesn't listen to the hunters and anglers in his state."
10:42am: "We are the only nation that can lead." Once we act, the rest of the world will come along.
10:39am: "Now is the time to act."
10:37am: Details impacts in California -- deeper droughts, more intense wildfires, collapse of coastal salmon populations.
10:32am: Gore details warming Arctic & Antarctic, threats to Louisiana and Florida, and increasing acidification of our oceans.
10:28am: Gore - moral equivalent of civil rights movement and Marshall Plan. Says Waxman/Markey bill will solve economic, energy and climate crisis.
10:26am: Gore says "Our country is risk on three fronts" -- economic slowdown, national security (dependence on foreign oil) and climate crisis.
10:23am: Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), and Rep. "Smokey" Joe Barton (R-TX) welcome Gore.
10:20am: First panel is seated -- former Vice President Al Gore and former Sen. John Warner (R-VA).
10:08am: CSPAN has switched to a live picture of people milling about the hearing room. Terribly exciting.
10:05am: And we're live from the National Wildlife Federation break room! (I don't have a TV at my desk.) The hearings haven't gotten underway yet, but you can keep an eye on C-SPAN or CSPAN.org to watch them.