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Tilting at Windmills

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June 11, 2010

PAUL BROUN'S PREOCCUPATION WITH DEATH.... Way back in August 2009, we talked about national polls showing pretty strong support for a climate/energy bill. I noted at the time that the polls might change, however, once Republicans argued that the legislation might require child sacrifices.

Ten months later, it looks like I was wrong, and that hasn't made the list of GOP talking points. But in my defense, I was close.

Rep. Paul Broun (R), the almost comically right-wing Georgian, appeared on the House floor this week to argue against passing energy legislation, which incidentally already passed the House about a year ago. He used an argument that's almost a parody of itself.

"A lot of old people in Georgia and Florida and all out throughout the southeast and the southwest are dependent on air conditioning just to live," Broun said. "And if their electricity bills go sky high, as the energy tax is gonna make it happen, if that ever passes there are a lot of people that can't afford to run their air conditioning anymore and people actually are gonna have a hard time with hyperthermia is what I call it -- what we call it in medicine as a medical doctor -- which means that their body temperature's gonna go up, they're gonna have dehydration, and people are gonna have a lot of problems. And it's gonna make a greater impact on our health care system and people are gonna die because of that."

Now, Paul Broun has a certain preoccupation with death by legislation, and it's a little creepy. This is the same guy, after all, who argued that if private health insurers had to compete with a public plan, the result would "kill people."

But this dystopian nightmare in which Southerners are killed from a lack of air conditioning, all because policymakers tried to combat global warming, is a new one. (Air conditioning will, of course, continue to be common if the energy bill passes, but I can't help but wonder how Paul Broun explains how people survived in the South before A/C existed.)

In any case, Matt Finkelstein helps set the record straight: "In fact, recent analyses show that clean energy legislation -- like the American Power Act -- would create millions of jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil at a minimal cost to consumers. For example, the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that the average household would see 'between a $136 increase and a $35 dollar decrease in annual energy expenditures.'"

Steve Benen 11:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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Comments

Actually before air conditioning heat did kill lots and lots of older people in America--north and south. Anericans are living longer these days and one of the reasons is air conditioning.

The problem he suggests is easily solved by providing a tax credit for more efficient air conditioners combined with credits for additional insulation.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 11, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Man-o-man. Steve, I congratulate you for pursuing a career reporting on these cretins. That he's a product of of the educational system spewing out the constituents whom he's afraid of losing their air conditioning increases my nausea to the point of , well, it's too close to lunch...

Posted by: stevio on June 11, 2010 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

It would be interesting to know where he stands on providing low cost fuel oil to the poor in New England during the winter months.

But, I await his next speech where he opines on how realignment in college football will affect his Georgia Bulldogs.

Posted by: berttheclock on June 11, 2010 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

That's the same (Pete) Peterson Institute that wants to cut Social Security, right?

Posted by: Tom Allen on June 11, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Sometimes I wonder if Republicans believe environmentalists are proposing we return to tents and caves.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 11, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure how they survived down here before AC, but I am pretty sure the lack of AC is why we are so far behind. Between May and October in Alabama, it is too hot to do anything but try to figure out how not to be hot.

Posted by: martin on June 11, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Of course if energy companies raise their rates so high that people have to turn off the AC, well that's just the invisible hand and free market collateral damage and so on.

Posted by: Baldrick on June 11, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

If the rates are unaffordable for some, I suggest we tap the Aeolian winds blowing through this guys head - Hell, they may prove to be the solution to the whole global warming crisis.
Yeeeeesh....

Posted by: c u n d gulag on June 11, 2010 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

would create millions of jobs in china you mean. It will create a few jobs here. Some tech's is about it.

Posted by: Rick on June 11, 2010 at 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

This post along with the preceding one highlight the fact free 'publican way. His mention of the heat of the South of course brings visions of slaves and sharecroppers working the fields of the summertime South during the glory times that were the Confederacy. Or of immigrants working the irrigated vegetable fields of the scorching Central Valley in California, or maybe even picking the occasional peach in Georgia.

Posted by: Mudge on June 11, 2010 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

There would not be a New South without AC. Anyone who has experienced summers down there know that folks basically spend their days going from one air-conditioned pod to another. Broun is a moron, but I have no doubt the South would still be an economic backwater without AC.

Posted by: NHCt on June 11, 2010 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

And there would be fewer people down South as well. No A/C, no gigantic population explosion.

Posted by: peej on June 11, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Oh hell. I grew up in Florida, so did my father, so did my grandfather. We didn't have AC till I was 7. Kids don't care -- they've got a killer surface-to-volume ratio, they just sweat. This Georgia legislator sounds like he's some candy-ass snowbird who can't take a little heat.

My parents have AC now, they set the thermostat at 81, or 80 if there's company. WTF are we, a nation of wusses?

Posted by: dr2chase on June 11, 2010 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

The "energy" bill will make energy more costly. It will make it more costly to heat homes in the North and to cool them in the South. It will tax people to subsidize ineffecient forms of energy--wind farms, solar, biomass,etc. It will reduce our standard of living. This is what environmentalists want to do, but they lack the courage to admit it.

Posted by: Alan Vanneman on June 11, 2010 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Rep. Broun knows of what he speaks. The California electricity crisis killed people. It gets plenty hot in the Central Valley. Of course, it is his party that supports the deregulation that enabled the corporate game playing that caused the crisis. And it is his party that said at the time that nothing could be done about it. So yes, he knows. His great fear is that what his cronies did to other people might be done to his people.

Posted by: TomB on June 11, 2010 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Would just like to register an objection to the increasing tendency to transcribe the phrase "going to" as "gonna," as in the Broun quote from Media Matters that Steve reproduces.

Virtually everybody says "gonna," but it isn't accepted by the dictionary.

I have the sneaking suspicion that it's used to give the impression that the speaker is uneducated and unintelligent. (Although depending on the content, it may simply reinforce that impression.)


Posted by: Swift Loris on June 11, 2010 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

C'mon, it's just the "death panels" argument all over again! And YOU thought conservatives didn't like to recycle!

Posted by: Southern Beale on June 11, 2010 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

People survive and even flourish in less-than-ideal climates when they structure their lives around their surroundings. What air conditioning has done for the American south -- most notably in Florida -- is allow new residents to reproduce the architecture of their native regions. The hidden subsidies that kept energy prices artificially low contributed to a glut of ski lodges, Georgian mansions and the ubiquitous and bastardized monstrosity known as the McMansion.

Cross-ventilation, cupolas that function like chimneys, wide porches that skirt the entire structure and tall ceilings made native Southern homes bearable and even comfortable.

The stucco prairie dog towns that are today's subdivisions require ac to be habitable. Anyone who has been without power after a hurricane can tell you about life in a termite hill with non-functioning windows.

Posted by: elnuestros on June 11, 2010 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

my mother grew up in south florida in a house with no air conditioning. of course the house was fairly open and sat under a wonderful old rubber tree, which protected the roof from the worst of the sun. of course back in that era there was no such thing as zero lot line homes and you could build to beat the heat naturally without spending a fortune. couldn't do that today. since living here i've had to endure a few days without ac because of hurricane caused power outages. it is miserable. btw air conditioning is relatively cheap compared to the cost of heating a home here. in any case broun is an ass.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on June 11, 2010 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Back before air conditioning, people in the South survived summer by means of shade trees, electric fans, gallons and gallons of iced tea, and, most importantly, by doing next to nothing from May to September and, most importantly, by moving from shady spot to shady spot very, very, very slowly.

How the hell they survived before they had ice and electric fans is beyond me. None of the old people I know seem to know either.

Posted by: Steve (Not That One) on June 11, 2010 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that subsidizing rooftop solar panels in the Sunbelt might be a good idea. A/C takes the most toll on the electrical grid during hot, sunny days, which is exactly the time that solar power is most likely to be available. (The biggest problem with solar power is the lack of an efficient storage mechanism.)

Posted by: Josh G. on June 11, 2010 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

[...] I can't help but wonder how Paul Broun explains how people survived in the South before A/C existed. -- Steve Benen

"Before AC existed" is also before the global warming made itself felt all around and on a daily basis. Whether Broun would explain it the same way is something else again.

Posted by: exlibra on June 11, 2010 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

I grew up near Mobile, Alabama, the rainiest city in the US (Seattle has more rainy days, but Mobile has more rain), and about as hot & humid as it gets in the continental US except for Florida. My dad never has believed in A/C, except for maybe leaning up against a window unit for a few minutes after coming in from mowing a lawn. We never had high ceilings, wide porches, or a cupola. I still don't, & I live in South Georgia now, which is pretty comparable. Sure I use A/C, but I've lived without it for years and could do so again. As for the elderly, I have fond memories of a family friend back home who was in her 90's & always kept her space heater on high, even in the dog days of summer. Sipping sweet tea with her after mowing the lawn was like relaxing in a sauna. I don't reckon she ever used A/C if she had it.

Paul Broun ain't got a leg to stand on. I'll take wind & solar energy any day.

Posted by: Jonathan on June 11, 2010 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Yep, Paul Broun is mah man! I watch him any time he's on!

Posted by: Buddy Epson on June 11, 2010 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

People survived in the South before refrigerated ACs with evaporative ACs, and before that they did not live so much is concrete jungles. And there were millions and millions more trees (which act as evaporative ACs),lawns and other vegetation.

Before that there were electric fans and open windows in every building and a lot less concrete, stone and asphalt.

And we sweated a lot.

Probably people with weak hearts and circulatory probems did die from the heat.

There is a reason for that afternoon siesta, you don't work when it is really hot, you wait till later in the afternoon when it cools down.

Posted by: Marnie on June 11, 2010 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

How Quickly We Forget

It wasn't that long ago that France saw an unusually hot summer. They don't have air conditioning, as a general rule. The heat impacted, as Broun pointed out, the aged and poor the hardest.

An estimated 30,000 elderly died that summer of heat-related causes. It was in the paper - every day, as cases flooded French emergency rooms, and the horrific death toll mounted. It went on for months, and the US media covered it.

I can't believe you don't remember, Mr. Benen. Just how young are you, anyway??

Posted by: Zandru on June 11, 2010 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe there are other people in here just like me who thinks the same about this issue, because for me it isn't a big issue.

Posted by: internet bureau on December 28, 2010 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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