Now that the climate bill is dead and decomposing, some advocates are writing op-eds arguing that if only its backers had framed things this way or that way, the public would've responded more positively and demanded action from lawmakers. See, for instance, Lee Wasserman's piece in The New York Times today. Most of these arguments seem pretty dubious, though. As Dave Roberts argues, the climate bill's pulse went flat less because of framing failures and more because it's just incredibly difficult to get large policies through the Senate.
This post might get a tad wonky, but bear with me, it's important. Politico is reporting today on a critical development in the Senate energy-bill talks. Remember, a cap on carbon pollution isn't dead yet. There's still a strong possibility that Harry Reid will include a cap-and-trade system that just covers electric utilities in the final climate bill. But before he can do that he needs to get utilities on board.
Politico's Coral Davenport reports today that Jeff Bingaman may replace John Kerry as the new point person on a Senate energy bill. When we last checked in, a bunch of other senators were griping that they were annoyed by Kerry's obsession with averting a major climate catastrophe. Presumably the far more low-key Bingaman won't offend their delicate sensibilities. But on a substantive note, this could signal a real shift in the Senate's energy ambitions.
One of my favorite sub-genres of liberal opinion journalism is finding areas of public policy where Republicans oppose the free market solution when markets are hostile to established business interests. I've been reading cases like this for some two decades. Yesterday's great Politico story on the GOP and energy reported: Republican leaders counter that they've pitched their own alternatives -- more nuclear power, incentives for electric cars -- that are much less expensive but that could make a sizable shift in the nation's energy future.
There are all sorts of rumors swirling around right now about what might be in the energy bill the Senate is planning to take up next month. The most recent involves a carbon cap that would only apply to electric utilities while leaving the rest of the economy uncapped. Would this be an acceptable compromise? Here's Dave Roberts: If you're going to single out one sector for cap-and-trade, electricity is the right choice. For one thing, it's the biggest emitter. For another, most of the lowest cost carbon reductions are expected to come from electricity.
It's hard to disagree with Ezra Klein about this, in reaction to Obama's oil-spill address last night: I'm just not sure how you do a response to climate change if you can't really say the words "climate change." And that's where we are right now: The actual problem we're trying to solve is politically, if not scientifically, controversial.
Dave Roberts at Grist thinks that President Obama's environmental proposals, while falling short of a demand for cap-and-trade (which he'll lose) do have some substance to them: As it happens, most of the energy options on the table are mediocre-to-terrible (mainly Bingaman's bill and Lugar's bill). That side of the bill badly needs strengthening in three key areas if it's to be a substantial step forward: It needs tougher, more ambitious energy efficiency provisions, particularly focused on the built environment.
In his big press conference Thursday on the ongoing Gulf disaster, Obama finally decided to put the oil spill in the context of broader energy reform and spent a few brief seconds asking the Senate to pass climate legislation. It wasn't the most rousing plea ever, but at least it's a start. Still, as Dave Roberts points out in this post, a big climate bill isn't the only way for the United States to start curbing its oil use.
The Peterson Institute for International Economics has just put out a great assessment of the Senate climate bill, the American Power Act. Dave Roberts has a post over at Grist with lots of colorful graphs pulled from it, but I thought this drab little chart was maybe the most helpful of the bunch.
Do we really need more sweeping scientific reports about global warming? At this point we've been deluged with studies and assessments and summaries and reviews, and anyone who's still deep in denial about the problem probably isn't going to be convinced by yet another fat volume of graphs and citations.