On June 26, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed unprecedented climate legislation endorsed by more than 140 Baptist leaders. One week before the 219-212 vote passing the “American Clean Energy and Security Act,” a Baptist Center for Ethics letter declaring support for the bill was released to each member of Congress.


“Planet Earth is the Lord’s and we are caretakers of it,” the letter explained. “When we guard the environment, we also protect the marginalized and those most vulnerable to droughts, floods, deteriorating ecosystems and diseases.” 


The “American Clean Energy and Security Act,” which still needs approval from the U.S. Senate before going to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature, is an environmental effort to reduce significantly carbon dioxide pollution responsible for global warming. The legislation was sponsored by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.). It received the support of 211 Democrats and eight Republicans to receive one vote more than the minimum needed.


One week before the vote, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report on the economic impact of the bill for American households. The estimated net cost for one year offered by the CBO was about $175 per household, which is far less than what critics of the legislation claim.


The CBO report broke down the estimate for different incomes, arguing that those in the lowest quintile of incomes in the nation would actually see a net benefit of about $40. Those in the second lowest quintile would see a net cost of about $40, while those in the middle quintile would see a net cost of about $235. Those in the second highest quintile would see a cost of about $340 and those in the highest would see a cost of about $245. 


Earlier in June, the CBO estimated that “The American Clean Energy and Security Act” would reduce federal deficits by about $24 billion from 2010-19. 


The day before the House voted, Obama offered his support for the legislation. He called it “a vote of historic proportions on a piece of legislation that will open the door to a new clean energy economy.” He urged legislators to support the bill in order to fulfill obligations “to our constituents, to our children, to God’s creation and to future generations.”


“It will spur new energy savings like the efficient windows and other materials that reduce heating costs in the winter and cooling costs in the summer,” Obama added. “And most importantly, it will make possible the creation of millions of new jobs. Now, make no mistake — this is a jobs bill.” 


Former Vice President Al Gore, who has pushed for the passage of the “American Clean Energy and Security Act,” praised the House for passing “one of the most important pieces of legislation Congress will ever pass.” He added that it “will make meaningful reductions in global warming pollution, spur investment in clean energy technology, create jobs and reduce our reliance on foreign oil.”


Gore, who shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, explained at the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in 2008 that there is clear evidence of global warming and that there is a biblical mandate for Christians to act as good stewards by reducing human-induced global warming. Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, introduced Gore at the event with a plaque honoring him as the 2007 Baptist of the Year and with a green-covered Bible. 


Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, attacked the “American Clean Energy and Security Act” during the June 27 broadcast of his radio program “Richard Land Live!” He called it “insane” and “one of the most damaging” bills “in a long, long time.”


On his program, Land talked with Cal Beisner of the Cornwall Alliance. Land stated his pride to be a part of the Cornwall Alliance and for signing its initial document. Land called the group “a biblical rebuttal to the Al Gores of the world.” Many of the leaders of the Cornwall Alliance, previously known as the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, work for organizations that have received funding from ExxonMobil. 


Beisner dismissed the claims of human-caused global warming and attacked the new legislation. Beisner and Land accused the bill of being a socialist effort giving the government more control. Land added that Obama is “a control freak.”


Beisner argued that the legislation would cost the average American household “around $7,000 – $8,000 a year” and would “hurt the lowest income people the most.” Land used these estimates to label the bill as “the largest tax hike in American history.” Such claims are contradicted by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s report, which found net costs of about $175 per household and that the lowest income households would actually experience a net benefit.


One of the provisions in the bill provides subsidies for faith-based organizations to pay for up to 50 percent of the cost of retrofitting their buildings to improve energy efficiency. The funding could support changes in lighting, windows and heating and air conditioning systems that will reduce energy use and save money for faith-based groups.

Brian Kaylor is a contributing editor to EthicsDaily.com

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