SEDALIA — Missouri's leading U.S. candidates expressed concerns Thursday about the effect of federal climate control legislation on Missouri's economy as their campaigns crossed paths for the first time.
Republican Rep. Roy Blunt and Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan both sought to appeal to rural voters at the Missouri State Fair's annual ham breakfast. They are seeking to succeed Republican U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, who announced in January that will not run for re-election in 2010.
The Governor's Ham Breakfast has become a tradition for Missouri politicians, though the campaign rhetoric typically is toned down for the event.
Carnahan positioned herself at the front of a buffet line for some high-quantity handshaking. Blunt moved around under the big-top tent that hosted hundreds of fairgoers. At one point, they briefly shook hands with each other.
After the ham breakfast, Blunt joined a pair of fellow Republican Missouri congressmen in criticizing federal climate control legislation at a news conference hosted by the Missouri Farm Bureau.
The bill, which narrowly passed the House earlier this summer, seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020, when compared to 2005 levels and by 83 percent by 2050. It would do so partly through a cap-and-trade program that allows pollution permits to be bought and sold.
Blunt, who voted against the legislation, said it would harm farmers who rely on petroleum-based fertilizers and are heavy users of diesel fuel. Agricultural "input costs absolutely for certain go up" under the legislation, he said.
Blunt said the bill also would fall hard on Missouri consumers, whose electricity comes predominantly from coal-fired power plants targeted by the legislation.
"This is essentially a tax on coal-based utilities," Blunt said.
Carnahan declined in an interview to say whether she would have voted for the House-passed legislation, but she added that it should probably be changed by the Senate.
"We need to do something to have homegrown energy that makes us so we're not so dependent on these foreign petro dictators controlling our economic destiny," Carnahan said. "The key is how you do that in a way that doesn't stick consumers, particularly folks in Missouri and other coal-dependent states."
Vanessa Crawford, the climate change coordinator for the group Missouri Votes Conservation, said fears that the federal legislation could result in sharp utility rate increases are unwarranted.
"We're not going to go close down all the AmerenUE plants tomorrow because we can't use coal," said Crawford, referring to Missouri's largest electric company. "There's a very gradual, reasoned reduction to the use of coal."
Republican state Sen. Chuck Purgason, who also is running for Bond's seat, did not attend the ham breakfast. Purgason said in a telephone interview that he plans to campaign at the fair Friday and Saturday, when there are more people but fewer politicians.