House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming to be terminated or led by a climate skeptic.
Republican contenders for leadership positions on two House committees have indicated they will not only conduct strict oversight of the Department of Energy, the EPA, and other agencies working on climate change and controlling greenhouse gas emissions, they will be investigating widely-accepted climate science itself.
In September, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the leading candidate to chair the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, vowed to continue a "Climategate" investigation when he takes the reins in January.
Even more disconcerting for some is the fact that Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner would be the likely successor to chair the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Sensenbrenner, who has expressed interest in chairing the committee, is himself a climate skeptic.
The three-year-old Select Committee rose to national prominence under the direction of Democrat Edward Markey of Massachusetts during the BP oil spill crisis, playing a pivotal investigative role and pressuring BP to stream live video of the gushing well in May and then continuing to apply pressure on the company to publish a high-resolution version of the feed they had kept hidden from the public for nearly two months.
"The apocalypse is not around the corner," the Republican Sensenbrenner said in 2007, dismissing the Select Committee as a stunt at the time.
Sensenbrenner has more recently spoken of the "international conspiracy" behind the science and policy of global warming. While he does not deny that global temperatures are rising, Sensenbrenner is skeptical that human activity is the primary cause.
If House Republicans do choose Sensenbrenner, one of Congress' leading climate skeptics, to lead the House Committee on Global Warming -- a committee charged with finding ways to "achieve substantial and permanent reductions in emissions and other activities that contribute to climate change and global warming" -- it will resemble the situation in 2005 when President George W. Bush nominated John R. Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton, who had made comments throughout his diplomatic career challenging the fundamental purpose of the U.N.--enforcing international law--ultimately got by Senate Democrats concerned about his hostility toward the U.N. when President Bush used a "recess appointment" to push Bolton through while Congress was adjourned for August recess. But committee chairs don't need two-thirds approval from the Senate.
The question of whether someone openly hostile to a committee's purpose is the best fit to lead that committee may be moot, however. In an opinion piece in The Washington Times last month, Michigan Rep. Fred Upton (R), a leading contender for chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called to terminate the global warming committee altogether, saying it had wasted $8 million dollars of taxpayer money.
But the issue does raise some questions for congressional supporters of federal action on climate change. Is it better to hand off the chairmanship of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming to someone who has serious doubts about the science behind global warming or would they be better off letting the committee die and perhaps resurrecting it in the future?
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