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.
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.