“Election energizes climate bill talks”

Graham, Kerry, Lieberman meet with Rahm Emanuel — and then Chamber of Commerce, whose VP of Gov’t Affairs said, “generally we were in synch”!

Seeking to resuscitate stalled global warming legislation in Washington’s suddenly changed political climate, a bipartisan group of senators including John Kerry of Massachusetts has been conducting private talks this week with the White House and a key business group over an array of concessions sought by Republicans.

The election of Scott Brown as Kerry’s colleague has added urgency to the negotiations for a compromise….


The front page of yesterday’s Boston Globe proves that I am not the last optimistic person about the bipartisan clean air, clean energy jobs bill, which preserves a livable climate and reduces our nearly $1 billion a day dependence on foreign oil.

Trying to win Brown’s support for a deal is part of the effort.

Good.  The bill can’t pass without at least 4 Republican votes, and very possibly more.  I’ll discuss the prospects for getting Brown’s vote in a later post, but fundamentally, the bill doesn’t merely require several R’s to have a chance at passing.   It would be far better for the nation if it had more like 6 to 8, even at the expense of putting in some really annoying crap in the bill.

Yes, I’d still like to see a bill that Snowe, Collins, Graham, Lugar, Voinovich, Murkowski, Brown, and even John McCain would support — okay, maybe McCain is hopeless, especially now.  The point is to send a message to the nation and the world that America is in this for the long, long haul.

I don’t think it is news to CP readers that in every bill that must be done, there is an element of … Mary Poppins:  a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down (see Graham (R-SC): “If you had a bill that would allow for responsible offshore drilling, a robust nuclear power title, I think you could get some Republican votes for a cap-and-trade system”).

Enviros increasingly get this:

Realizing that the climate change bill will die without Republican and moderate Democratic support, environmentalists in recent months have been reexamining their priorities and considering whether they should give up long-held opposition over issues such as offshore drilling in exchange for action on the broader issue of reducing greenhouse gas production.

“Many people understand that getting a bill through the Senate may require accepting policies that were previously unacceptable,” [CAP’s Dan] Weiss said.

Previously unacceptable to some — offshore drilling and major nuclear title — is sugar to others.

While the status quo media has labeled the climate bill moribund (again), the tripartisan trio are like Energizer bunnies of clean energy.  They keep going and going and going to meetings with key players:

Kerry accompanied Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, and Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, to a White House meeting on Wednesday with presidential chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to discuss shaping a bipartisan bill. The trio met Thursday with officials of the US Chamber of Commerce, which has been critical of “cap-and-trade” measures to limit greenhouse gases that have passed the House and been approved by a Senate committee.

At the meeting, the senators said they were focusing on a strategy that would provide subsidies to kick-start construction of nuclear power plants, encourage the development of technology that would bury carbon emissions created by the burning of coal, and promote offshore drilling.

Although the chamber will make no commitment until a bill is unveiled, its vice president for government affairs, Bruce Josten, said that “generally we were in synch” because Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman were proposing an array of incentives for developing energy resources that would coincide with carbon emissions reductions. Josten said it was the first time he had met with Kerry to discuss climate change.

Kerry said yesterday via e-mail that he is trying to follow a different political route on climate talks to avoid the pitfalls encountered during the health care negotiations.

“Unlike health care, we start out with a bipartisan issue where a progressive senator from Massachusetts and a conservative from South Carolina have already struck an alliance,” Kerry said, referring to himself and Graham. “We never had that on health care. Lindsey Graham and I even had a great meeting with the US Chamber of Commerce this week to get them engaged. What’s that tell you?”

It tells me that 1) they remain damn serious about getting a comprehensive bill and 2) politics makes very strange bedfellows (see “Chamber admits calling for ‘Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century’ was dumb“).

As I’ve said before, the notion of a nuclear title is not news “” that was always going to happen.  While I wouldn’t be thrilled with all conceivable provisions such a title might have, the overwhelming majority are unlikely to have a significant impact or even cost the taxpayers much money, as long as nuclear power plants remain so damn expensive (see “Nuclear Bombshell: $26 Billion cost “” $10,800 per kilowatt! “” killed Ontario nuclear bid“).

If the nuclear industry could ever get its act together and come up with one or two standardized, modular, affordable designs, they might become a major climate solution.  And that wouldn’t be a terrible thing, given just how much clean energy we are going to need to stabilize near 2°C warming.  But I’m not expecting any major design improvements or big cost drops for a decade or more in this country.

And most of the potential drilling provisions bother me less than the nuclear ones for two fundamental reasons:

  1. When oil prices soar in the coming years, Democrats are not going to be able to resist the demand for opening more area to drilling anyway “” so they might as well get a climate deal in return now.  Oil is likely to blow past $100 a barrel in Obama’s first term “” and could well blow past $150 a barrel in what will hopefully be his second term (see “Deutsche Bank: Oil to hit $175 a barrel by 2016).”  Opening more federal acreage is inevitable.
  2. Opening more federal acreage probably won’t lead to any significant extra drilling for at least another decade.  I had a long analysis of this last year “” “The cruel offshore-drilling hoax.”  The oil companies already have access to some 34 billion barrels of offshore oil they haven’t even developed yet, but ending the federal moratorium on offshore drilling would probably add only another several billion barrels, generating under 100,000 barrels a day in new supply “” maybe 0.1% of world production “” sometime after 2020.  A leading EIA analyst told me in 2008 that ending the entire federal moratorium is “certainly not going to make a difference in the next 10 years.”  My 2008 analysis discusses why.  If this deal ripens, I’ll do another post.

We need to keep our eyes on the prize “” a shrinking economy-wide cap, coupled with major provisions to boost energy efficiency and and other clean technologies.  This is what we need to complete the transformation to a clean energy economy begun in the stimulus, generating $100 billion a year in new U.S. investment in clean energy, sufficient to compete with the Europeans and Asians who want to eat our lunch in this most rapidly growing industry of the century (see “The only way to win the clean energy race is to pass the clean energy bill“).

We can’t embrace the magical thinking of the do-nothing crowd, which was led by President Bush for 8 years, that says funding R&D is all we need to do to save a livable climate (see “The breakthrough technology illusion“).

Even more important, it is what we need to achieve an international deal that gives us a fighting chance to stabilize anywhere near 2°C total warming and avert catastrophic impacts.

If this is gonna happen, it’s because everybody took some medicine and everybody got some sugar….

31 Responses to “Election energizes climate bill talks”

  1. fj1 says:

    One practical strategy for moving forward on climate bill talks would be serious discussions, investigations, and innovations into effective cost-of-living decreases in energy, transportation, food, housing, etc. based on increased waste reduction, efficiencies and responsible uses of natural resources provided free like wind, solar, human power, urban and suburban farming.

  2. paulm says:

    The NYT is onboard too…Editorial -The Case for a Climate Bill

  3. anniversary says:

    Synchronization of chaos is a phenomenon that may occur when two, or more, chaotic oscillators are coupled, or when a chaotic oscillator drives another chaotic oscillator. Because of the butterfly effect, which causes the exponential divergence of the trajectories of two identical chaotic system started with nearly the same initial conditions, having two chaotic system evolving in synchrony might appear quite surprising. However, synchronization of coupled or driven chaotic oscillators is a phenomenon well established experimentally and reasonably understood theoretically.

    It has been found that chaos synchronization is quite a rich phenomenon that may present a variety of forms.

  4. Ben Lieberman says:

    Kudos to Senator Kerry for not giving up. Environmentalists should learn lessons from the health care bill: facing a challenge of this magnitude do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

  5. Dallas says:

    I think you hit some excellent points. I just hope the more liberal reps in the house will listen to you. If the climate bill (or health reform bill) fails, it will be because it doesn’t have each and every Christmas gift the most liberal senators ejaculate over. On a controversial measure like Climate Change or health reform, you are going to have to make some concessions.

  6. “do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

    Hear, hear! I hope the purer-than-thou faction of the left realizes that we face catastrophic global warming unless we are willing to make the compromises needed to get a bill this year.

    If we don’t get it this year, we are even less likely to get it after the mid-term election.

  7. Edouard Jouet says:

    From what I have been reading on this site it appears as if the world may come to an end. I am really, really scared. So scared I just peed on all of the picture I have of Joe Romm. Ahhhh….and the rest trickled out onto Al Gore’s forehead….

    As far as any CO2 legislation passing, it ain’t, ever. So get over it.

    The world has caught on to your circus act and “climate science” has become a world wide joke. I am hoping they round up all you frauds and throw you in jail for theft of taxpayer dollars to fund your fake studies.

  8. Mossy says:

    Come on, voters! We’re going to turn the tide for the climate.

    Join the new Facebook group, “Paint Brown Green.” We’re going to innundate newly-elected Senator Scott Brown with steady communications from climate-concerned citizens.

    Comments are nice, but we need to ramp up the action. See:

  9. joe1347 says:

    Hate to say it, but are you giving the American Public a little too much credit for understanding the facts behinds the issues. I suspect that too many Americans still think that there’s several Saudi Arabia’s worth of untapped oil in the USA that the greenies simply won’t let the Oil companies drill for. Energy independence to this crowd only means unrestricted drilling in the USA and likely tax breaks or tax incentives to the oil companies to drill, drill, drill.

    Of course, in the reality based world, the rational solution is to rapidly transition to PHEV’s to promote some sort of energy (oil) independence. But that requires a small measure of sacrifice on the part of the American public in the form of slightly more expensive cars and not being able to buy huge SUV’s. Do you think our brave politicians in the Senate will sign up for a no more SUVs bill? Hardly.

    However, since it’s highly likely the oil prices will spike again soon. Should Obama allow more drilling – but without the tax breaks to the oil companies – to neutralize any future political fallout? Maybe it makes a lot of sense – unless you own a beach front house in Santa Barbara, CA. Additionally, I guess it may also buy a few Republican votes for policies that actually matter in the long run in an energy bill – unlike drilling for non existent oil?

  10. Tim L. says:

    Anyway, Joe, let’s hope Kerry, et al do succeed. Would be great if they enlist more vocal support from the current & ex military brass who get the national security implications of this whole issue. Meanwhile, as for climate disinformers like Jouet, “the dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.”

  11. fj1 says:

    #8. joe1347 “a small measure of sacrifice”

    It is not clear that there needs to be any real sacrifice, just real change. Humans are quite smart and most are way under-employed.
    Special interests like the insurance industry are deeply entrenched in health care greatly distorting it effectiveness. It may not be really clear what this industry provides toward the advance of civilization especially, when governments exist to provide the same level of capitalization.

    Special interests like the insurance, finance, oil, advertising, and media industries are deeply entrenched in transportation greatly limiting its technology track, innovation, and effectiveness.

    Health care and human mobility will likely be many times better once special interests are prevented from skewing these fields to serve their own restricted needs based on making money which has proven to be in direct conflict with the idea that these are basic human rights on par with the idea of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.

    It is about realigning human endeavor to be much more productive, meaningful, and interesting and, of course, with miniscule environmental footprints to eliminate the dystopias resulting from extremely narrow and pervasively restricting interests.

    Change can be quite scary, but the resultant jobs will likely be even more plentiful and much more rewarding which has seemed to be the trend with the ongoing improvement of human civilization.

  12. Edouard Jouet says:

    Tim L., nice to see Joe let’s you out from under his desk long enough to type a few words or should I say blather. Make sure not to ruin his tie wiping that stuff off your chin.

    This site is nothing but an echo chamber for marxists radicals living in fantasy land.

  13. That folks, was the comedy styling of Edouard Jouet. He’s here all week (try the veal!)

  14. Rick says:

    The health care bill efforts were a real eye opener to me. How many times did Obama say that it would absolutely get done in 2009? Too many to count and I think he really believed it too.

    He really thought more would happen at Copenhagen too. I think Copenhagen is an indicator of what is going to happen with the climate bill. It’s going to be too hard and it’s going to be put off.

    If opponents are smart and they read your post, it should be clear that they just have to wait it out until oil prices rise and then the people will be demanding drilling – so why even bother paying for it now (by going along with a climate bill) when you can get it for free later.

  15. Anna Haynes says:

    > “so why even bother…”

    I bet most of them have children.

  16. Joe, do you mind hiring someone to delete your trolls. I can’t tell you how many times my readers contact me privately because they have no time to read troll comments. Life is short. Lets keep the discussion on point.

  17. Be cautious though – I just read the Bingaman Energy bill – which is a 2005 pander to Cheney bill (but with his perennial Renewable Energy Standard tucked in with all the soothing fossil noises to not wake the Republican filibuster – let’s not fall in with the media narrative of how we can pass an “energy” only bill meaning this oil, gas, nukes, coal bill.

    His RES is only 15%. He tried the first time with, ? 25%? but even this is great. It only applies to the holdout rogue states that don’t have an RES yet. 90% coalpowered Wyoming etc.

    But RES is working in tandem with the 30% tax credit for renewables in the same way that cap and trade does: a carrot and stick combo

  18. Dan B says:


    One question:

    Did Marxists bring you an easy target?

    Or are you deeply frightened that “the Marxists” will take over again, after the failure of the Soviet system?

    Or, are you frightened that the unrelentingly socialist / command and control system of the Chinese will produce the clean energy goods and services that will wipe the smile off your face?

    They’re ready to eat your lunch. They’re ready to eat all our lunches once 1 billion Indians and 1 billion Chinese get cheap cars.

    Go to the gas station and listen to the sucking sound.

    I don’t like that.

    Are we in agreement?

  19. fj1 says:

    We are in a dire emergency situation plain as the noses on our faces.

    It is long overdue that the President calls the world’s scientists before Congress to give a full accounting of the situation.

    If Congress wishes to allow deniers to confront the world’s scientists let it happen in front of Congress, the American people, and the people of the world.

    It will be very obvious that war-time-like powers should be granted to immediately address this dire emergency where the 2 billion chronic poor on this planet will be the first to succumb, not unlike what just happened in Haiti since they do not have the resources to adapt; even though the Haitian earthquake was likely not caused by the climate crisis, catastrophes of similar magnitude will happen as a result; already, 35,000 people died in the 1 in 200-year heat wave in Europe a few years back where they do have the resources to adapt; globally, accelerating desertification is generating huge losses of arable lands to grow food and continues unabated; natural water supplies are running out.

    There are no rational mysteries to contradict that this is a dire emergency. It is well understood. It is directly causal. It is like watching a train wreck happening before us and doing nothing to try and stop it.

    People like Brown are inconsequential in responding to an emergency of this magnitude. Those special interests trying to prevent life-saving action are highly treasonous.

    The President and the true leaders of this country must stand up and make this happen. This is not about politics. It is about survival. It is about the science that there are enormous unprecedented life-and-death consequences if we do not act immediately.

    When you are very sick or have been in a bad accident you immediately go to a doctor or a hospital. And, that is because medicine is based on science. You call in the doctors to figure out what is going on and provide a proper course of treatment.

    It is just that simple.

  20. Wit's End says:

    I agree with Susan #16. Standard denier points are tedious but sometimes the refutations in comments have worthy ideas and links – however, Jouet is plain disgusting, especially first thing in the morning! Ick!

    Mossy told me about this movie (trailer here: that is a terrific dramatization of what fj1 is talking about – The Great Squeeze.

  21. ewh says:

    I agree with lifting the off-shore drilling moratorium just to get the issue off the table. Carbon capture and sequestration is an expensive ineffective rathole and nuclear is almost as bad. It’s amazing that those measures are critical to winning the votes of politicians who claim to be all about fiscal responsibility and small government.


  22. SecularAnimist says:

    Joe quoted: “… the senators said they were focusing on a strategy that would provide subsidies to kick-start construction of nuclear power plants, encourage the development of technology that would bury carbon emissions created by the burning of coal, and promote offshore drilling.”

    I’m not surprised that the Senate — which just produced a “health care reform” bill that is little more than corporate welfare for the insurance corporations — would “focus” on producing a “climate/energy” bill that will be little more than corporate welfare for the nuclear, coal and oil corporations, squandering massive public resources on nuclear power, and actually promoting coal and oil use.

    Spending billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize and guarantee the profits of the corporations that are causing problems, while doing little to support actual, effective solutions to those problems, is business as usual for the bribed, bought and paid for corporate agents who inhabit the US Senate.

    This isn’t “a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down”. It’s a gallon of factory-farmed, genetically-engineered, syntheticly-fertilized corn syrup disguised as medicine.

  23. Andy says:

    Re: Fj1 – I agree. I think it is critical at some point that Pres. Obama or John Holdren address US citizens and lay out our current understanding of global warming. This could be done over a long period starting with congressional testimony on a proposed bill in committee and then proceeding to a number of public service announcements, and finally followed by a speech from the President. Then start over and do it again.

    The science is good. Let the Rush Limbaugh’s and the rest of the Fox crew howl in protest at the public ads; they aren’t going to disprove a thing and the debate will let the truth sink in with the public: that Rush and his ilk couldn’t tell their you know what from a hole in the ground when it comes to climate science. And that they are playing fast and loose with our future to satisfy nothing but their own egos.

    There is so much disinformation out there right now that I imagine many folks don’t know what to believe about global warming. I think the US Surgeon General played an important role in cutting through the tobacco company’s crap. Do you remember the debates that raged and how controversial it was when the Surgeon General proposed putting warning labels on cigarettes? Eventually the tobacco company’s arguments crumbled and the truth that these guys were heartless bastards that would kill you kids for a buck came out, culminating in their standing up before congress. That was a moment to savor. Who in our government will take up a similar role today?

  24. espiritwater says:

    Yep, I agree with the above post. If the republicans win the next presidential election, it’s over. Remember when the whole war was protesting the war in Iraq? Remember thousands and thousands protested, trying to warn birdbrain that he shouldn’t invade Iraq? And he still went ahead? The neo cons have their own agenda and it has nothing to do with helping the American people. Obama is our last chance. If he doesn’t do what needs to be done concerning climate change, we’ll be in big trouble!

  25. On the fence says:

    Help me out Charles…Why “if we don’t get it this year, we’re even less likely to get it after the mid-term elections”?

  26. mark says:

    It seems that the Obama team has made some mistakes, and done some things right.

    But they have not communicated very well, especially about the things they have done properly, such as withdrawing from Iraq. which is ahead of schedule.

    I would like to see that shortcoming changed quickly.

    It would help the climate change effort.
    I heard my first “climate change law will cost jobs, and raise heating bills” ad this morning.

    so the fight is on.

  27. Edward says:

    2 degrees C is too much warming. The warming we already have is a disaster that is just not being reported. Here is proof:
    345 Lynn Vincentnathan says:
    22 January 2010 at 11:07 AM
    I read the presentation by Kargel, et al. in the “Update” above. So it won’t be as bad as soon for Northern India and the Himalaya watershed as I had thought (my thinking was within 100 years it could be very bad, but it will be just a bit worse, I guess, and only potentially much worse well beyond 100 years from now — which still is a strong call for us to mitigate AGW).
    One Q I had re #10 on pg. 42 was about the increased precip due to warming sea surface balancing or exceeding the glacier retreat. Would that precip be coming down as rain in winter (in which case it would contribute to greater flooding and not help with irrigation in summer), or would it be coming down as snow, which stays put in winter, and melts in summer, helping with their irrigation-dependent agriculture.
    What really shocked me back to a harsh reality, however, was #10 also mentioned the possible heat pump effect could shift precip away from the Southern India northward.
    It should be noted that a lot of people also live in Southern India, and they are already experiencing increasing droughts in summer and extreme floods in fall. Farmers are committing suicide due to crop failure.
    My nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews (in Tamil, grandchildren, and since we don’t have children, they ARE my grandchildren) will be suffering because of these problems.
    These are the storms of MY grandchildren, and it makes me mad and sad. So please please please reduce your GHGs as much as possible. Please do what you can, at least what saves you money and is no skin off your nose. Please please please.

  28. Edward says:

    21 ewh: Exactly what about nuclear don’t you like? You get only one thing, OK?

    By the way: EVACUATE DENVER!!!!
    If you live in Chernobyl the total radiation dose you get each year is 390 millirem. That’s natural plus residual from the accident and fire. In Denver, Colorado, the natural dose is over 1000 millirem/year. Denver gets more than 2.56 times as much radiation as Chernobyl! But Denver has a low cancer rate.

    Calculate your annual radiation dose:

    Average American gets 361 millirems/year. Smokers add 280 millirems/year from lead210. Radon accounts for 200 mrem/year.

    Although radiation may cause cancers at high doses and high dose rates, currently there are no data to unequivocally establish the occurrence of cancer following exposure to low doses and dose rates — below about 10,000 mrem (100 mSv). Those people living in areas having high levels of background radiation — above 1,000 mrem (10 mSv) per year– such as Denver, Colorado have shown no adverse biological effects.

    Calculations based on data from NCRP reports show that the average level of natural background radiation (NBR) in Rocky Mountain states is 3.2 times that in Gulf Coast states. However, data from the American Cancer Society show that age-adjusted overall cancer death in Gulf Coast states is actually 1.26 times higher than in Rocky Mountain states. The difference from proportionality is a factor of 4.0. This is a clear negative correlation of NBR with overall cancer death. It is also shown that, comparing 3 Rocky Mountain states and 3 Gulf Coast states, there is a strong negative correlation of estimated lung cancer mortality with natural radon levels (factors of 5.7 to 7.5).

  29. fj1 says:

    #20 Wit’s End, I believe the link for the trailer

    “The great Squeeze: Surviving the Human Project” is at

    with more information and download of the full film at

    Including Lester Brown and EO Wilson, I look forward to seeing it.