Joining the ranks of industrialized nations that are working to curb carbon emissions, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a sweeping energy bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, last week, setting slightly higher targets for renewable energy and establishing new carbon trading rules.
Neither Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson nor Rep. Walt Minnick supported the bill, raising the hackles of environmentalists, particularly in Minnick's case.
"I'm disappointed," said Idaho Conservation League Executive Director Rick Johnson, a strong Minnick supporter. "He [Minnick] has a very sound articulation on why a carbon tax would be better and I agree with that, but a carbon tax was not a legislative option at this point."
Congressional Democrats opted for cap and trade, which allows for credits for companies that reduce their emissions, which can then be sold to companies that opt not to curb their pollution.
"This bill raises many concerns. Idaho farmers are worried about increased fertilizer and power costs. Idaho energy companies believe it lacks proper consideration for hydro power and nuclear technology. Idaho businesses are frustrated with giveaways that rig the system in favor of pollution-heavy industry in the Midwest and California ..." Minnick stated.
Minnick was one of 44 Democrats who voted against the bill. Eight Republicans voted for it.
Simpson said one of his main objections to the bill was that carbon credits will not be provided to producers of nuclear power or hydropower.
"Instead of creating a host of government mandates and forcing consumers to foot the bill for this legislation, I support using technology, incentives and innovation to move our economy to a sustainable, independent energy future," Simpson said.
Andrea Shipley, executive director of the Snake River Alliance, said that Minnick fell on the wrong side of history with his vote. The League of Conservation Voters, which supported Minnick, vowed to withhold campaign contributions from any member who voted against cap and trade.
According to campaign contribution data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, representatives who voted against the bill received nearly twice as much money from energy companies than those who supported it.
Simpson has taken $408,507 since 1989 from energy companies, which generally opposed the bill, according to CRP. Environmentalists and renewable energy producers have not given him any cash.
But Minnick's contribution totals tell a different story. While oil, gas and power interests gave him some $33,000 in contributions, Minnick took nearly $67,000 from environmentalists and green energy.
Business PACs, which generally, though not exclusively, opposed the energy bill, also gave Minnick more than $450,000.
And Republicans vowed to attack any vulnerable Democrat who supported it.