The Hill: “Dozens of Democrats want to move a climate change bill, including centrists such as Sen. Arlen Specter”

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"The Hill: “Dozens of Democrats want to move a climate change bill, including centrists such as Sen. Arlen Specter”"

Could states’ financial troubles BOOST chances for a bill?

“I think it [climate legislation] is important. I think we ought to take it up,” Specter said in a brief interview last week. He’s also said any final bill must protect manufacturers and provide a major boost for low-emissions coal.

Today, The Hill has an antidote to the flawed, unbalanced reporting in the Politico that I discussed yesterdayThe Hill is not wrapped up in pushing a center-right narrative, like the Politico, but just focuses on getting the story right.

This is a superior piece of reporting from the start, with its headline, “Senate climate change fight looks as tough as healthcare reform bill.”   Assembling 60 votes for comprehensive climate and clean energy jobs legislation was never going to be easy in this political climate, but any story has to begin with the White House commitment to climate action and the bipartisan team working with the administration:

Environmentalists familiar with Democratic plans say party leaders remain committed to bringing up a bill next year. They are looking to Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) effort to craft a compromise plan with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)….

They hope to blend emissions limits with wider offshore oil-and-gas drilling, expanded federal financing for nuclear power and a lot of support for low-emissions coal projects, among other measures aimed a navigating a thicket of regional and partisan interests.

Graham noted that different senators are proposing a variety of plans for limiting carbon emissions, and he said he’s open-minded to what is included in a bill, as long as it is a “meaningful control” on pollution.

The story then mentions how “Some Democratic centrists including Sens. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Byron Dorgan (N.D.)” want the Senate pursue an energy-only bill, but immediately explains that isn’t the majority view of the caucus:

That’s led to speculation that Democrats might seek to move an energy bill but put off the fight over climate change.

The problem with that logic is that dozens of Democrats want to move a climate change bill, including centrists such as Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), who faces a tough primary fight and then a difficult general election battle.

“I think it [climate legislation] is important. I think we ought to take it up,” Specter said in a brief interview last week. He’s also said any final bill must protect manufacturers and provide a major boost for low-emissions coal.

Given Specter’s strong advocacy of comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation, it’s hard to remember he was a Republican just one year ago!

And again, The Hill notes the administration wants comprehensive legislation:

White House officials also are calling for a combined energy and climate package, including an economy-wide cap-and-trade plan.

White House climate czar Carol Browner in November warned against “slicing and dicing,” and a White House aide said Monday that a combined energy policy and cap-and-trade package remains what the White House wants from Congress in 2010.

The Hill also has found a unique twist on the economic argument that conservatives often use to attack the bill:

The sour economy could also complicate plans to impose mandatory emissions limits amid assertions by GOP leaders and many in the Republican caucus that such plans would stifle growth.

But Kevin Book, an analyst with the consulting firm ClearView Energy Partners, argues the reverse is true.

He said that with states hurting financially, the billions of dollars that House and Senate cap-and-trade plans would provide to states through emissions allowances will help boost the chances for legislation that greatly expands federal environmental regulation.

“A weak economy is the only time you can have this incursion into the state regulatory franchise,” he said.

Finally no story on climate legislation could be complete if it doesn’t mention the EPA’s endangerment finding:

And, he notes, supporters of climate legislation have another card to play: The Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to move ahead with emissions regulations if Congress does not act.

“It is going to be very hard for Democrats to come up with nothing,” he said. “The only really politically viable option for them, thanks to the White House choice to move ahead [with EPA regulations], is to pass something.”

Funny how the Politico never mentioned the EPA in its entire story.

Yes, passage of the bipartisan climate and clean energy bill in 2010 is far from a sure thing, but it remains a likely prospect, as long as progressives remain as persistent as the anti-science ideologues.

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5 Responses to The Hill: “Dozens of Democrats want to move a climate change bill, including centrists such as Sen. Arlen Specter”

  1. David B. Benson says:

    Low emissions coal?

    Well, one could go to oxy-fuel, proveded in concept by a demonstartion, followed by sequestering the resulting exhaust stream, almost pure CO2. One (probably) safe place to put the stuff is deep into basalt formations. Here is an expen$ive idea:
    http://www.pnas.org/content/105/29/9920.full.pdf+html
    Less expensive is to use the ample basalt formations in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

  2. Wes Rolley says:

    Watching this happen will be about as pretty as watching Nebraska’s Sen. Nelson have his way on health care. Massey Energy will keep on blowing up mountain tops. AEP will continue to burn coal and CCS will suck tax dollars like Perot promised for NAFTA.

    Sorry that I am so cynical, but at some point we need to say enough is enough.

    Wes Rolley
    Member: EcoAction Committee, Green Party US

  3. As always one can be proven wrong but I have long been convinced that despite how partisan the health care battle has been I expect the energy bill to have a very different fate. After all, this bill is not about climate change but a dramatic energy conversion and there is enough room in that topic to create a much more bipartisan consensus. There are for example plenty of conservatives who deeply want to move us toward energy independence and among climate scientist activists like James Hansen enough enthusiasm for embracing the so called 4th generation nuclear facilities (see his wonderful _Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity_) that I believe that we will be much more successful in finding common ground with the energy bill.

  4. Leland Palmer says:

    Not forcing the coal industry to do CCS just means that coal fired power plants will keep churning out the CO2.

    We ought to just seize them, and forcibly transform them to BECCS, I think.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beccs

    As the graph in the above article points out, costs to reach 350 ppm CO2 without BECCS are several times those to reach 350 ppm with BECCS.

    Cost issues related to CCS have been vastly overstated, IMO. Industry always squeals, and bellows about costs, just as part of their negotiating position when regulation is being attempted. And the McKinsey stuff is funded by the fossil fuel industry, and they do have a motive to make conservation look so cheap and CCS or other technologies that intrude on business as usual look so expensive.

    Oxyfuel combustion looks good to me. Potentially the higher temperatures and greater heat transfer of oxyfuel combustion, along with some Clinton era ideas such as Indirectly Fired Combined Cycle, could increase the efficiency of the transformed BECCS power plants enough to pay for the conversion.

  5. CTF says:

    According to reports, Senator Kerry is willing to look at the alternatives to a fundamentally-flawed cap and trade system, which is really phenomenal news. I can only hope that moving forward, he and his colleagues take a serious look at a revenue-neutral carbon tax–the solution to climate change that virtually all of the world’s leading scientists and economists endorse.