Did a climate bill ever have a chance to squeak through Congress? Could anything have saved it? Politico's Darren Samuelsohn has a piece today about the usual, tiresome round of recriminations among greens after Harry Reid killed cap-and-trade. (Okay, technically Reid's putting it off until after August recess, but the odds of survival are grim.) The underlying question, though, is a good one: Peering back over the past two years, there were a few pivot points where things might have turned out very differently. What if McCain had won the election?
It goes without saying that the nation should legislate no new commitments to offshore oil drilling without first getting to the bottom of the colossal BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. That means investigators, lawmakers, and the public at large need to really grapple with the Deepwater Horizon mess. In this respect, lawmakers need to understand what technical things went wrong and get a grip on what regulatory failures played a role.
Now that financial reform has passed through the Senate, is energy next? As always, that's… unclear. A big problem right now is that no one actually seems to be at the forefront of shepherding the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act through the chamber.
Details about the forthcoming Senate climate bill are still scarce, alas. As mentioned earlier, the hot rumor of late is that Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman are planning to unveil a plan that would have a cap-and-trade system for emissions from electric utilities and then a separate "carbon fee" for oil and other transportation fuels, with the revenue either getting funneled back to consumers or used for projects that reduce oil consumption. And there are even some signs that this strategy could boost the bill's chances of passage.
Darren Samuelsohn dusts off the crystal ball and tries to figure out if the climate bill can garner 60 votes in the Senate. By his count, there are now 67 senators in play—that includes 43 likely "yes" votes (including the two Maine Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins), 17 dithering Dems, and seven Republican fence-straddlers: Lindsey Graham, Lisa Murkowski, John McCain, George Voinovich, Richard Lugar, Judd Gregg, and George LeMieux.
In ClimateWire today, Darren Samuelsohn has a valuable profile of Lindsey Graham, who's emerged as the highest-profile swing vote on climate change, especially after his Times op-ed with John Kerry over the weekend urging the Senate to pass legislation. It seems Graham's been particularly impressed by the national-security arguments in favor of curbing America's carbon dependency: Sen. Lindsey Graham spent his summer testing out lines on global warming.