Saturday, August 30, 2014
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Specter Switch: Good for the Earth?

Will a supposedly fililbuster-proof Senate majority embolden him to move further toward the green end of the spectrum? As with all questions involving Specter, the best answer is: Maybe, maybe not.

Specter Switch: Good for the Earth?

Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter's sudden switch this morning from Republican to Democrat has pundits of all strips analyzing the move from all possible angles in an attempt to foretell the future. Assuming that Al Franken's Minnesota victory is finally ratified, Specter could be that crucial 60th vote for the Dems in the case of a filibuster, so that's one obvious effect (though Specter has already said "I will not be an automatic 60th vote").

Another question making the rounds in eco-circles is: Does this switch spell good news for environmental policy?

Obama has already made several key moves to reverse the previous administration's head-in-sand approach to climate change, and the implication was that there was more to come. Will a supposedly fililbuster-proof Senate majority embolden him to move further toward the green end of the spectrum?

As with all questions involving Specter, the best answer is: Maybe, maybe not. For one thing, as the Wall Street Journal blog pointed out, Specter not only supports "clean" coal wholeheartedly, because it “will play a key role in energy production well into the future,” but he's also a fan of "dirty" coal: “I supported an amendment to H.R. 6 aimed at launching the coal-to-liquids industry in the United States and was disappointed it was not included in the final Senate version."

And Grist notes that Specter failed to support two ambitious bills, McCain-Lieberman and Lieberman-Warner, instead pushing the “Low-Carbon Economy Act,” which Girst says "has weak targets, free permits, automatic off-ramps, and all the rest of the kinds of provisions that neuter a climate bill." However, Climate Progress points out that in the world of party politics, the past may not always be prologue: as a Republican facing a tough primary challenge from the right, he was a lost vote on global warming legislation.  One assumes that if he is going to seriously run as a Democrat, he’ll support an energy and climate bill."

That would be a nice assumption, but you know what happens when you assume. While nobody - maybe not even Arlen Specter - can predict exactly which way he'll come down in crucial votes, the move is still a big psychological boost for green advocates. If you need more than that, Wonk Room has a chart that you can pick apart, showing just how Specter voted on relevant legislation.It's little surprise that hit voting pattern matches those of conservative Democrats, because, you know, that's pretty much what he now is.

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Earth to Philly is a weblog focusing on earth-conscious technology, trends and ideas, from a Daily News perspective. We look at the "green" aspects of your home, business, food, transportation, style, policy, gadgets and artwork. If you have a Philly-related story, Click here to let us know about it!

The experts at Philadelphia's Energy Coordinating Agency answer your energy questions in our regular feature Stay Warm, Stay Green. Send in your question or questions to energy@phillynews.com.


Look for Jenice Armstrong to supply tips on green living as well as occasional columns on the subject of Green. She also blogs at Hey Jen.


Becky Batcha stays tuned for the here-and-now practical side of conservation, alternative energy, organic foods, etc. - stuff you can do at home now. Plus odds and ends.


Laurie Conrad recycles from her ever-growing e-mailbag to pass along the latest travel deals, fashion statements, household strategies, gadgets, cool local events and other nuggets of interest to those who appreciate a clean, green world.


Vance Lehmkuhl looks at topics like eco-conscious eating, public transportation and fuel-efficient driving from his perspective as a vegetarian, a daily SEPTA bus rider and a hybrid driver, as well as noting the occasional wacky trend or product. Contact Vance with your 'green' news.


Ronnie Polaneczky sees the green movement through the eyes of her 12-year-old daughter, who calls her on every scrap of paper or glass bottle that Ronnie neglects to toss into the house recycling bins. Ronnie will blog about new or unexpected ways to go green. She also blogs at So, What Happened Was...


Sandra Shea and the DN editorial board opine on any green-related legislation or policy. And we'll pass along some of the opeds on the subject that people send us.


Jonathan Takiff will be blogging mainly about consumer electronics - those things that we love to use and that suck too much energy. He'll spotlight green-conscious gizmos made in a responsible fashion, both in terms of materials used and the energy it takes to run them.


Signe Wilkinson draws the comic strip Family Tree, which follows the Tree family as they try to live green in the face of nattering neighbors, plastic-wrapped consumer products, and the primal teenage urge to spend vast quantities of money on hair care products of dubious organic quality.


In addition to these updates from our newsroom bloggers, watch for an occasional feature, Dumpster Diver Dispatches, from Philadelphia's original "green" community of artists, the Dumpster Divers. You'll learn about creative ways to reuse and recycle while you reduce, and about the artists who are making little masterpieces from what others throw out.

  • Dispatch #1: Margaret Giancola's rugs from plastic bags
  • Dispatch #2: Dumpster Divers in City Hall (Art in City Hall series)
  • Dispatch #3: Wild wood, New Jersey
  • Dispatch #4: Dumpster Divers award winners announced
  • Dispatch #5: From sweaters to colorful cuddling
  • Dispatch #6: Green artists retake South Street Sunday
  • Dispatch #7: Isaiah Zagar: He's a Magic (Gardens) Man





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