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.
Enviro-types don't have much to be cheery about these days. Climate legislation has sputtered out. Jay Rockefeller is trying to delay the federal government's ability to rein in greenhouse gases. And the party of climate denialism is poised to grab a bunch of seats in Congress next year. So that means carbon emissions are just going to keep rising without end, right? Well, not necessarily.
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?
The Senate has basically given up on passing a climate bill. So where does that leave us? Yesterday, I noted on Twitter that the action is going to shift to the states and federal agencies. Remember, the EPA is obligated to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, and Lisa Jackson is moving ahead with those rules. (Here's my primer on that.) Meanwhile, as I've reported before, plenty of states are moving ahead with their own climate policies. There's already a (modest) cap-and-trade system for utilities in the Northeast called RGGI.
Compare and contrast: On the same day that the climate bill quietly dies in the Senate, the Chinese government announces plans to put a price on carbon in the next five years.
So the big winner of the climate-bill fiasco could turn out to be… T. Boone Pickens. That's right, the billionaire who financed the Swift Boat ads against John Kerry in 2004.
The odds of a climate bill passing this year look increasingly bleak. Harry Reid and John Kerry confirmed this afternoon that they are only going to release a very modest energy bill before the August recess. How modest? Here's Reid's (vague) description: One, we will hold BP accountable. We will ensure it pays to clean up its mess, and we will put forth measures to prevent a disaster like this from ever happening again. Two, we will create clean-energy jobs across America.
Andrew Restuccia passes along an update on the ever-elusive energy bill.
For years, the coal industry's strategy for dealing with climate change has gone something like this: 1) Fight off caps on carbon pollution for as long as possible. 2) Convince politicians to throw gobs of money at fancy low-carbon technologies like carbon capture and sequestration. 3) Pray that those fancy technologies actually work. The strategy has succeeded so far. Seeing as how half the electricity in the United States comes from coal, there's never a shortage of members of Congress willing to do whatever the industry wants. And yet...
Via The Hill, a research note from FBR Capital sums up everything you need to know about where the energy-bill talks stand: "Senate scheduled to debate something next week." Yup, something. No one knows what will be in the bill yet. Reid is scheduled to meet with the Democratic caucus on Thursday; Kerry and Lieberman are asking for an extension so that they can try to salvage a utility-only cap; and it's likely that the whole debate could get pushed back until after August recess. The biggest danger, at this point, is that Republicans will run out the clock on energy legislation.