Last week, gleeful Republicans declared the climate bill dead along with the rest of President Obama’s domestic policy agenda. Scott Brown became the first himbo (male bimbo) elected to the Senate, while Lisa Murkowski (R-Baked Alaska) persuaded most of her Republican colleagues, and three Democrats, to cosponsor her joint resolution of disapproval (2 pg pdf) aimed at blocking the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases. Even Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) declared that "a large cap and trade bill isn’t going to go ahead at this time."

I’m semi-pleased to see that reports of the climate bill’s death have been slightly exaggerated. In the last 24 hours, the bill has been given a second chance. However, it’s morphing into something ugly.

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold….

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Lindsey Graham’s remarks disavowing "a massive cap and trade system" yesterday morning raised so many eyebrows that he immediately clarified his remarks:

The energy legislation that was passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is not strong enough to lead us to energy independence. The climate change legislation passed by the House of Representatives and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is too onerous on business and does not enjoy bipartisan support.

He gets credit in my book for being half-right — the energy-only legislation requiring utilities to get 15% of their power from renewable energy sources is wholly insufficient. Take that, Senator Dorgan (D-North DaCoal)!

For what it’s worth, I suspect he’s angling for a Republican vision of clean energy and a variation on Cantwell-Collins’ CLEAR cap-and-dividend bill (which, contrary to its backers’ claims, is a cap-and-trade-and-dividend bill), and David Roberts at Grist believes Graham wants a cap to apply only to some sectors of the economy, such as electric utilities.

Meanwhile, the two Democrats long considered "probably no" votes on the climate bill, Ben Nelson (D-Dust Bowl) and Mary Landrieu (D-Hurricane Katrina) have been upgraded to "fence sitters" according to Energy & Environment Daily (2 pg pdf). Nelson begins to see the wisdom of a cap on carbon, and Landrieu prefers a legislative solution to an EPA solution.

Climate action came from an unexpected source, the Securities & Exchange Commission. Yesterday it voted to require publicly traded companies to make climate change disclosures: the impact of legislation and regulation, the impact of international accords, indirect consequences, and physical impacts. Gee, Senator Murkowski, maybe now you need to introduce a resolution stripping the SEC of its authority too?

President Obama then gave his State of the Union speech. Beforehand, I’d surmised that he’d likely push clean energy jobs but neglect to mention climate change. The speech both pleased and disappointed. Somewhat pleased, because he mentioned, albeit briefly, the "overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change" for the first time since becoming President. Hugely disappointed, because his ideas of clean energy are nuclear power, offshore oil drilling, clean coal, and biofuels. One brief mention of "the world’s cheapest solar cells." And absolutely no mention of wind power.

Repeat that, slowly. Nuclear power, which has been controversial in the environmental community, is the most palatable of the bunch.

Offshore oil drilling?!? Enviros are split between seeing it as a necessary sop to sausage-making and completely self defeating. As it’s been put crudely, drilling for a climate bill is like f*cking for virginity. President Obama, you want to make a really tough decision about opening up our sensitive and beloved coastlines to oil drilling? The truly tough decision would be to say no to the lobbyists who’ve already bought and paid for certain Senators depicted at right —>

As for the chimera of clean coal, I’ll have more to say on that once its existence can be proven. I’ve been waiting for a while.

Meanwhile, Senators’ post-State of the Union reactions regarding the climate bill can be collectively summarized as one big shrug.

The climate bill framework being crafted by senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman is leaning toward expanding nuclear power, offshore drilling, and clean coal in the interests of obtaining Republican votes; however, I’ve seen no indication yet that the proposed porkfest is actually attracting voters. Meanwhile, President Obama appears to believe in the myth of the center: a sweet spot where there’s just enough "clean coal" to balance out the cap on carbon. That center is an illusion. It can’t hold votes. Instead, the climate bill is at risk of morphing into something so ugly that it can’t do its basic job of capping carbon.
(x-posted at DailyKos)

RLMiller

RLMiller

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