You don’t hear the label every day, but our Congressman, John Salazar, is a member in good standing of the Blue Dog Coalition Democrats. I like dogs, but John’s been pissing on my pant leg lately.
He voted against the Clean Energy Act a few weeks back. This is the bill that aims to help the nation face reality, at long last, to admit that fossil fuels are not only warming the planet they are going to be gone soon (the super-profitable liquid and gaseous stuff, anyway) and need to be replaced with non-warming, renewable energy sources as quickly as we can manage it.
Salazar voted against the bill (which passed, barely, 219 to 212) along with 43 of his fellow House Blue Dogs. I don’t know what his justification was at the time of the vote, but various Colorado media reported him faulting the legislation for being “potentially detrimental to Colorado’s oil and gas industry.”
How’s that again? This is the Clean Energy Act, John. You’re a Democrat. You claim to be pro-environment, pro green jobs. You want us all to see the big picture, the long view, our grandchildren’s view. You live in a state where if the snow doesn’t fall, the economy blows away. And you fail to support a first step, a tentative step at that, toward altering our un-challenged carbon spewing?
The Blue Dogs really are an organization—not just a colorful moniker—founded in 1995 by conservative Democrats, mostly southerners (though that has changed) from districts where they are seen as non-threatening alternatives to Republicans. The name comes, of course, from the infamous Yellow Dog Democrats of the last century (again largely southerners) who said they would rather vote for a yellow dog than any Republican, the party of Lincoln. The Blue Dog handle also derived, apparently, from the graphic complaint by some founding members that they were being “choked blue” by the policies of their own party.
There are 52 of them in the House now, and they hold power out of proportion to their numbers. Both parties must court their favor. They claim to be centrists, but they often vote with the Republicans. They helped pass war funding legislation in May 2007. They approved George Bush’s warrentless wiretapping. They supported a Republican-backed bill that limits access to bankruptcy protection.
And they have threatened recently to torpedo health-care reform.
I wrote Salazar a disapproving email after his energy bill vote, and yesterday I got a reply in the mail. It’s pure form-letter obfuscation: “Thank you for contacting me about H.R. 2454…I understand your concerns about climate change and appreciate you taking the time to contact me.”
Blah, blah, blah. While he agrees with the bill’s intentions, “like reducing greenhouse gas emissions, funding energy efficiency initiatives and creating grants for green jobs,” he couldn’t support the legislation because it is “unfair to rural America.”
Huh? Salazar’s motto on his government web page is: Defending Rural Values. He used to be a farmer. He says he’s watching out for the poor consumer in western Colorado, says the Act will raise the cost of carbon-based energy too much. This is the industry line. This is the constant whine from Haliburton and Encana and BP and the rest, that any new regulation or shift in subsidy will be the end of them on the west slope. And by extension, you will freeze in your cabin over the winter.
Baloney. Big Oil has invested billions here in what they know is the last great play before cheap fossil fuel becomes extinct. They are clinging tooth-and-claw to the highly profitable status quo. So, apparently, is John Salazar, who may think he needs the roughnecks in their shiny new pickups to get re-elected. (And with two-year terms, Congressmen are always campaigning for re-election.)
Oil and gas is both a cash cow and a dirty, doomed dinosaur. Blue Dogs are a schizophrenic breed, too. As if to prove it, Mr. Salazar is also sponsoring a bill to add something like 63,000 acres of Wilderness to southwest Colorado. A draft of the San Juans Wilderness Legislation is currently accepting public comment until August 16. It would create new federally protected Wilderness in Naturita Canyon and around Sheep Mountain, and add significantly to the existing Mount Sneffels and Lizard Head wildernesses.
Good dog, John! That’s forward thinking. Are dogs allowed in Wilderness Areas?