A national civil rights spokesman told Montana energy producers Wednesday that the country's energy policy will harm the poor and threaten their industry and the economy.
Niger Innis, the spokesman for Congress of Racial Equality, called for the production of "more of everything,'' including renewable energy like solar and wind power and "good old-fashioned fossil fuel.''
Innis was the luncheon speaker at the Montana Petroleum Association's annual meeting held at the Crowne Plaza in Billings. More than 150 industry representatives along with local, state and federal representatives and officials attended the luncheon. The three-day meeting and golf tournament ended Wednesday.
Innis said the country's energy development is critical to its economic growth and to economic equality for all people, especially the poor. People with incomes below the poverty level spend 50 cents of every dollar on energy compared with 5 cents of every dollar spent by people with average incomes, he said.
He blasted environmental groups - repeatedly calling them "the green mafia'' - and the "elite media'' saying they were trying to stop energy development.
Laws and policies that restrict access to energy drive up prices for everything from food to transportation and disproportionately harm the poor and disadvantaged, he said.
In particular, Innis called the cap and trade bill passed by the U.S. House an assault on the country's energy industry.
The Waxman-Markey legislation, which Innis called the "cap and tax'' bill, seeks to limit greenhouse gases by creating a national cap on emissions and then granting credits or allowances to industries that emit these gases. Industries must either reduce their emissions or buy more allowances. The legislation has stalled in the Senate while industries are trying to kill it.
If the cap and trade plan becomes law, Innis said jobs will be lost, households will pay more for energy and the economy will shrink.
The global benefit of the cap-and-trade bill also is dubious, he added, because major carbon emitters like China and India are not part a comprehensive agreement. There will be an imbalance if the United States does everything and other countries do nothing about climate change, he said.
The Congress of Racial Equality is proud of its efforts to nearly kill the cap-and-trade bill, Innis said. But even if it is defeated, the federal Environmental Protection Agency will enact it "by fiat'' through the Clean Air Act, he said. The only way to stop that is for Americans to "resoundingly say no,'' he said.
CORE was founded in 1942 as a civil rights organization. Based in New York City, the nonprofit group promotes equality for all people. Innis has appeared on national news programs including CNN and Fox News. His father, Roy Innis, is CORE's national chairman.