Saturday, June 11, 2005

Senate Could Act on Climate Change

An Associated Press report from late Friday night offers new hope that the Senate may insert a provision to combat global warming into its version of the energy bill, which will be taken up next week. At least three different amendments may be offered in this area, and Energy Committee chairman Pete Domenici told the AP he expects this will be "a big issue" when the energy bill hits the Senate floor.

A key paragraph: "In recent days there have been intense discussions to try to forge a compromise on the climate issue. Proponents of a climate provision argue that the country's energy blueprint cannot pretend to be complete without addressing ways to at least reduce the growth of heat-trapping gas going into the atmosphere."

The three possible alternatives (and more may appear):

- John McCain and Joe Lieberman's amendment would place mandatory caps on emissions to draw the total down to 2000 levels by 2010. This garnered 43 votes last time it was offered, and with the new Senate is unlikely to get as many this time around.

- Jeff Bingaman, the ranking Energy Committee Democrat, will offer an amendment that would "establish a mandatory system of emission permits aimed at limiting the growth of greenhouse gasses over the next 15 years. It also calls for an emissions trading system aimed at reducing the economic burden so U.S. businesses are not harmed internationally."

- Chuck Hagel is reportedly also drafting an amendment, which relies "heavily on the call for increased research into climate science, development of clean-energy technologies, and ways to trap carbon emissions with no mandatory restrictions." Because voluntary works so well.

The Bingaman amendment, as the Washington Post notes in an editorial today (which offers more details about it), is based on a plan offered by the bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy, made of up representatives from the energy industry, environmental groups, and the scientific community. It appears to be gaining significant support among both Republicans and Democrats, and Senator Domenici has even left the door open for offering his own support to it.

As much as I would like to see McCain-Lieberman passed, because I think it's the kind of strong medicine America needs right now to deal with climate change, I recognize that there aren't enough votes for it in this Senate. The Bingaman alternative seems like a fair intermediate step, and I hope that it can attain a majority of senators in support. Its future after that is quite bleak, since Republican leaders in the House are viscerally opposed to anything that even looks like it might be a healthy step forward on climate change and would do their utmost to scuttle it in conference ... and even if it somehow made it through conference there is a chance the president would veto it.

But, as the Post notes today, "Even if this amendment never becomes law, its passage would deal a significant psychological blow to the last holdouts in the White House - which is why Republican senators should resist the inevitable White House pressure not to vote for it." Absolutely right. Passage of an amendment that takes serious steps to address the issue of climate change would be a watershed moment in American political life, and would represent an important victory for centrist bipartisanship in this era of gridlock. Let's get it done!


At 1:33 PM, Blogger Mark said...

There's no such thing as Global warming. That's just something the environmental wacko's invented to try to scare us all into donating money to their organizations.


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