I have said many times “Obama can get a better climate bill in 2010” — although that is true only if he and Congress have a coherent strategy to do just that (see below).
It has been increasingly obvious that 1) climate bills would not be passed by both houses separately, 2) be reconciled in confernce, then 3) be passed by both houses again and finally 4) get signed by Obama all by the end of 2009. Now it is just about official, as E&E News PM (subs. req’d) reports:
The Senate will not take up climate change legislation until this fall, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said today, confirming plans to let the House proceed first on the controversial cap-and-trade and energy measure.
“They’re going to finish theirs before August,” Reid told reporters. “So we’ll have to do it in the fall”….
Asked whether Congress can complete a bill this year, Reid responded, “Congress lasts two years.”
Indeed, right now, the adjournment target date for the fall is October 30, and it seems unlikely the Senate would stay in session much long than that [-- I welcome any schedule updates anyone has].
So what does team Obama need to do in 2009 to 1) make up for the fact that there won’t be a climate bill and 2) get a better bill next year than they could get this year? Well, he has already more than satisfied part #1 with the unprecedented action he has taken (see “31 days that made “” and may remake “” history” and “The first sustainable budget in U.S. history” and “EPA finds carbon pollution a serious danger to Americans’ health and welfare requiring regulation“).
I have already blogged on one part of the answer to the second question “” they need to get China onboard with a serious emissions deal (see Part I, Does a serious bill need action from China? — more on some good news on that front Wednesday). Here is an more of the answer from my January Salon piece:
Obama must begin high-level bilateral negotiations with China (or trilateral negotiations that include the European Union) to get a national commitment from the world’s biggest carbon dioxide emitter to cap their emissions no later than 2020. Such a deal would presumably be contingent on U.S. action, but would enable a much stronger domestic climate bill. We simply can’t solve the climate problem without Chinese action. And absent Chinese action in the next decade, the developed countries could never sustain the price for carbon dioxide needed to achieve meaningful reductions….
The goal of deferring the climate bill to 2010 is not merely to allow time to get China on board, but to undo the last eight years of disinformation and muzzling of scientists by the Bush administration.
[A 2007 report by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee concluded: "The Bush administration has engaged in a systematic effort to manipulate climate change science and mislead policymakers and the public about the dangers of global warming."]
The American public “” and media and cognoscenti “” are not prepared for the scale of effort needed to preserve a livable climate. The Obama team needs to spend a considerable amount of time giving public speeches, holding informal meetings with key opinion makers, researching and publicizing major reports on the high cost of inaction and the relatively low cost of solutions. That simply can’t be done over the next few months, when the administration’s focus must be “” and the media’s focus will be “” on the grave economic crisis….
If, as seems likely, conservatives remain stubbornly blind to the scientific reality, then passing the climate bill will likely descend into a traditional partisan fight. A pragmatist like Obama should relish the fight. After all, if the GOP wants to put itself on the side of humanity’s self-destruction, then that political battle is best held in an election year, after a lengthy public education campaign.
[The critical messaging effort may be his hardest and yet most important task (see "The media's decision to play the stenographer role helped opponents of climate action stifle progress.") As I've written (here,) science adviser John Holdren should initiate a detailed series of reports on U.S. impacts "” temperature rise, sea level rise, Dust-Bowl-ification, spread of disease, ocean acidification, and so on "” ending with a full assessment on the total cost of inaction (see "An introduction to global warming impacts"). And Energy Secretary Steven Chu should initiate a detailed series of reports on mitigation technologies and costs "” efficiency, cogeneration, solar PV, concentrated solar thermal, and so on (see "An introduction to the core climate solutions"). And the Administration can then issue a Stern-like report on the costs of action versus the costs of inaction.]
Personally, I’d like to see the Senate (and then House) pass in 2009 the mother of all energy bills. But since the House seems heck-bent on lumping energy and climate together, then at the least it’d be nice to see an effort, comparable to Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System, to build a smart, 21st-century grid that can enable concentrated solar thermal power from the Southwest and wind from the Midwest, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles everywhere. [See "A smart, green grid is needed to enable a near-term renewable revolution" and "An introduction to the core climate solutions"]
Bottom Line: Obama won’t see a climate bill on his desk this year — and that should be a good thing!