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Rep. Fred Upton is becoming a popular target of environmental groups.

Upton, who represents the Sixth District in southwest Michigan, was at one time a political moderate who as recently as 2009 was on the record favoring action to fight climate change.

But Upton quickly changed his position last year in his fight for the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, after coming under fire from Republicans, as well as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, for not being conservative enough. In a December column in the Wall Street Journal, Upton said that he is “not convinced” that carbon emissions need to be regulated.

That shift didn’t go unnoticed, and now environmental groups are calling attention to Upton’s climate flip-flop.

In a column on the Huffington Post this week, Erich Pica of Friends of the Earth describes Upton as “the coworker who was your friend until he got promoted and ‘went corporate.’” and notes that his reversal on climate change was “so complete and extreme that even Fox News questioned him.”

And a new site from the League of Conservation voters, Upton Updates, provides a list of talking points for supporters to share via social media, such as “In 2007, Upton co-authored a measure to ban inefficient, incandescent light bulbs, but after pressure from Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, said he will “reexamine the issue.”

Of course, Upton is hardly the first politician to have done a complete 180 on climate change in recent years. Heck, even Sarah Palin was a realist about climate change before climate-denial theatrics became so politically fashionable.

The shift in the last few years has been remarkable. For instance, the now-vilified 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, for instance, passed with bipartisan support and was signed by President Bush, who, for the record, was pretty conservative. In Minnesota, a landmark 2007 law promoting renewable energy and restricting carbon emissions, which also passed with bipartisan support and was signed by also-pretty-conservative Gov. Tim Pawlenty, is coming under fire as well.

Of course, political winds have always shifted. But now, the web is making it a lot easier for interest groups to keep track.

Photo by Micah Woods via Creative Commons

Ken Paulman

Ken is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.