September 29, 2013

John Shimkus, Rodney Davis team up to show hypocrisy on energy prices

Congressman Rodney Davis usually does a good job of sounding vaguely moderate, even when he's pursuing extremely conservative policies, so I'm a little surprised to see him co-author an energy editorial in a Champaign newspaper with his mentor, former boss, and national punchline for anti-science extremism, John Shimkus.

Shimkus and Davis joined forces for an editorial to let you know they oppose new carbon regulation proposed by Obama's EPA because it may result in rate increases. They neglect to mention their record of supporting large rate increases, as long as the money is going to the coal industry.

shimkusShimkus enthusiastically supports the new Prairie State coal plant that resulted in rate increases of 30% or more for municipalities and co-ops that invested in the Peabody project. He continued to brag about his support for Prairie State, claiming it provides "affordable power" and was a "smart investment" even after the hidden costs hit consumers. Wind power would have been a safer investment to keep rates low. Rate increases for a coal plant earned praise from Shimkus despite his opposition to the supposed "job-killing" rate increases that might be caused by EPA protecting human health.

Shimkus and Davis both lobbied extensively for Tenaska's coal plant proposed in Taylorville, Illinois. They requested federal support from the same energy loan program they attacked when it financed Solyndra. The loan program is good for coal, bad for solar, according to Davis and Shimkus.

Tenaska admitted their coal plant would raise electric rates, which is why their bill to mandate hikes was opposed by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. An Illinois Commerce Commission study found that the plant's energy prices would be significantly above the market rate for both wind and nuclear power. Davis and Shimkus continued their support of the plant, despite knowing it would raise rates.

Davis and Shimkus remain perfectly consistent. Rate increases and taxpayer subsidies are good for coal, and bad for clean energy.

It's also interesting to note that Davis continued his dance of questioning (but not explicitly denying) the scientific consensus that man-made pollutants are driving the climate crisis. The Davis/Shimkus line that "temperatures rise and fall over time" is an obvious reference to the natural cycles argument used by climate change deniers. They don't acknowledge that the coal industry is the top source of man-made pollutants leading to climate change impacts on the regional economy, such as interrupting river barge traffic and deterioration of Illinois cropland.

A major goal of climate change denier groups is to spread just enough doubt about man-made pollutants causing the problem that the public will hesitate to support policies that could lead to rate increases. Davis' strategy of focusing on potential rate increases while treating the science as an unsettled question is copy and pasted from the Exxon/Koch Brothers playbook.

Davis objected last month when the League of Conservation Voters ran an ad calling out his pattern of refusing to acknowledge the scientific consensus. His spokesperson complained that Davis was taken out of context when he repeated the claim made in a discredited article that climate change stopped 16 years ago. But, he still didn't say Davis disagreed with the misleading statement he chose to bring up, and now he's back to spreading natural cycles nonsense. Clearly, the LCV ad accurately reflects Davis' position as a denier, despite his spokesperson's attempt to nitpick inconsequential details of how it was worded.

Rodney Davis knows that a majority of the 13th Congressional district won't support an anti-science zealot like his mentor, John Shimkus. He also knows the Republican base demands the Tea Party position of denying climate change. I'm curious to see how long Davis can continue walking this tightrope without giving a plain answer on where he stands.