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FILE - In this Sept. 6, 2012, file photo, then-Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. In February 2013, the former governor is partnering with a New York hedge fund to launch a proxy battle for contro
AP via DailyKos image library
The DailyKos community has just concluded its a series of blogs opposing the Keystone pipeline, that piece of infrastructure that would carry planet-cooking tarsands from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico. Separately, the DailyKos editorial board is running a campaign to draft a vocal supporter of the Keystone pipeline who’s so confident that the pipeline will be built that he’ll bet the $100 burning a hole in his pocket. “It’s got to be built,” he says, criticizing the "jackasses that are complaining."

Schweitzer isn’t only a friend to Canadian tarsands. He’s also a big booster of Powder River Basin coal shared between Wyoming and Montana. 60 Minutes has dubbed him the coal cowboy: “He says flat out that his plan will change the world, and that the key to the country's energy future is buried in the grassy plains of eastern Montana.” Proponents of Schweitzer’s “clean coal” proposal trumpet its ability to free the United States from foreign oil; scientists respond: “What they’re proposing is simply not allowable if we want to avoid the perils of unconstrained anthropogenic climate change,” said Pushker Karecha of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “The bottom line is that there’s one fatal flaw in their proposed [coal-to-liquids] process from a climate protection standpoint. It would allow liquid fuel CO2 emissions to continue increasing indefinitely.”

When it’s disclosed that Mark Zuckerberg funds pro-Keystone XL ads, the denouncement is swift -  a CREDO petition asking his group to stop running ads supporting fossil fuels already has 13,000 signatures. But when Brian Schweitzer does the same? Crickets. Instead, Progressive Change Campaign Committee gets 15,000 signatures on a petition to draft him.

Why are progressives so willing to overlook Schweitzer’s pro-Keystone, pro-coal stands?

Myth: “There are no other viable Democratic politicians in MT. If we don’t run Schweitzer the Democrats will lose a seat.” Fact: This Great Falls Tribune storystory lays out all the potential candidates, including Denise Juneau and Stephanie Schriock.

Juneau, the first Native American woman elected to statewide office, is particularly intriguing - she was the sole no vote on expanding the Otter Creek coal mine (Schweitzer voted yes). “We could sell every parcel of state land and log every tree on state lands, but we don’t,” said Juneau at the Otter Creek hearing. “We don’t because we want to sustain Montana’s lands for future beneficial use … Of course there is [monetary] value in mining the coal. But there is also value in keeping Montana ‘Montana.’” She spoke to the Democratic National Convention on the value of education:

Schriock is the president of EMILY’s List, ran campaigns for Jon Tester and Al Franken, and thus brings a formidable campaign presence. A PPP poll on the Montana Senate race in February, when Baucus was in the picture, found that Schweitzer was competitive, Nancy Keenan of NARAL less so, but didn’t poll any other Democrats. Schweitzer may be the front runner, but the state has many other Democrats along with a strong populist tradition not limited to Schweitzer.

Climate change protesters in Kalispell, Montana.
photo credit via Ojibwa at the Forward on Climate rally
Myth: “Montana is a coal state, so we can excuse him.” Fact: Montana is a state dependent on a lot of industries - mining jobs are far less than jobs in the tourism industry. Some ranchers line up to oppose coal, wary of turning the state into an Asian resource colony. Montana also has good-to-excellent wind resources (which Schweitzer, to his credit, does promote). In short, the state is not just a coal state, and a truly forward-looking leader will move the state away from a poisonous resource instead of maintaining its dependence.

Myth: “Schweitzer is so good on other issues that it trumps his pro-coal positions.” Yes, he favors single-payer health care, as if that has a chance of becoming law any time soon. Yes, he’s as good on banking reform as Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown. Fact: those positions pale in comparison to what James Hansen has famously called “game over for the planet.”

Simply put, it’s time to stop giving Democratic candidates a pass on dirty fossil fuels. Big Oil and the coal barons have a business plan to change the chemical composition of the atmosphere in the name of their profit. It’s time for Democrats to stop enabling them.

Originally posted to Climate Hawks on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 12:24 PM PDT.

Also republished by Montana Kossaks and Climate Change SOS.

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