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.
Earlier today, the chairmen of the world's five biggest oil companies went before the House energy committee to testify about the Gulf spill. Naturally, the CEOs from ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Shell all wanted to put as much distance as possible between themselves and BP, protesting that they would've never handled this mess so poorly. But Henry Waxman and Ed Markey weren't buying it: Mr. Markey added: “In preparation for this hearing, the committee reviewed the oil spill safety response plans for all of the companies here today.
Tonight at 8 pm, President Obama will give one of his patented Big Speeches about the oil debacle in the Gulf—only this one will be his first-ever address from the Oval Office. The backdrop's no accident. Presidents typically only resort to Oval Office speeches when, as John Dickerson notes, they're "responding to an immediate crisis [or] trying to change the dynamic of an ongoing one." And this address falls into the latter category. The public thinks Obama's been way too cuddly with BP, while badly-needed energy legislation is sputtering in the Senate. Something has to change, and fast.
As if BP wasn't in enough trouble, the company now has Henry Waxman on its case. Waxman has long been one of the House's a most brutal investigators—back in the '90s, he and his staff dredged up those damning Big Tobacco documents showing that cigarette manufacturers had lied about their products for decades.
Tomorrow Obama will give a big primetime speech about the BP oil disaster, and he's expected to call for some sort of energy bill from Congress. But how far is he going to push? The New York Times reports that the administration is reining in its goals: President Obama has said that the time has come to put a price on carbon dioxide pollution and vowed to find the votes for it this year.
Sometime this summer, the Senate will have a debate over an energy bill. What kind of energy bill? That's still the unanswered question. But the timing, at least, is propitious: After all, 2010 is shaping up to be the hottest year on record, and the summer months should be particularly unpleasant. And studies have shown that people are, predictably, far more receptive to talking about global warming during the sweltering heat than during the winter months.
So it looks like Lisa Murkowski's resolution to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases got shot down. The final vote was 47 to 53, with every Republican and six Dems voting in favor, including Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Evan Bayh, Mark Pryor, and Jay Rockefeller. The line from most of these folks is that they want Congress, rather than the EPA, to take the lead on global warming. Trouble is, many of them won't vote for a climate bill, either.
The Hill's Alex Bolton has a good preview of the Senate vote today on Lisa Murkowski's EPA resolution. This resolution, recall, would overturn the EPA's finding that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare. Not only would that stop the agency from cracking down on new coal plants and other greenhouse-gas emitters, but it would also scrap the new fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks that the Obama administration recently put in place.
Now that Lindsey Graham is bailing on the climate bill he helped write, does he have any other bright ideas? Sort of. Earlier today he appeared at a press conference in support of Indiana Republican Richard Lugar's new energy bill. Yes, this is exactly the sort of energy-only bill that Graham himself once derided as "half-assed." What's more, as Kate Sheppard reports, Graham seems to have backtracked so much from his old views that he's now spouting a lot of nonsense about climate science. But hey, Graham's confusions and self-contradictions are old news by now. What about the Lugar bill?
Once upon a time, Lindsey Graham was the great conservative hope for passing climate-change legislation. He helped draft a (decent, if imperfect) bill with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman. He gave a bunch of passionate speeches about the need to wean America off fossil fuels and cut carbon emissions. He took a lot of abuse from the Tea Party lunatics in his state but stood by the effort because, by all accounts, he thought it was an important cause worth fighting for.