Climate

Lindsey Graham: “The idea of not pricing carbon, in my view, means you’re not serious about energy independence. The odd thing is you’ll never have energy independence until you clean up the air, and you’ll never clean up the air until you price carbon.”

The conservative senator from South Carolina has delivered the quote of the week, which I for one will be using again and again.  I think he has exactly the right framing, and I’ll expand on this next week.

At the same time, Sherrod Brown (D-OH) told reporters, “I want to vote for a cap-and-trade bill.”

Graham has consistently shown that he does get it.  Like all of us who speak on this subject a great deal, he sometimes doesn’t quite say things the way he’d like (see “Is there going to be a bipartisan climate, energy security, clean air and clean energy jobs bill this year?“).

But in E&E News PM (subs. req’d), Graham ended any confusion about where he stands on this most important of issues:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) insisted today that he still supports placing a cap on greenhouse gas emissions and would work to win over reluctant Republicans as part of a broader bill that also opens the door to more domestic energy production.

“To jump-start nuclear power, wind and solar and the green economy, you’ve got to price carbon,” Graham told reporters today. “How you do it is subject to discussion and open debate. But the idea of not pricing carbon, in my view, means you’re not serious about energy independence. The odd thing is you’ll never have energy independence until you clean up the air, and you’ll never clean up the air until you price carbon.”

What about that notorious quote in the NY Times?

Graham, who is working with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on the issue, was quoted today in a New York Times story that suggested the Senate would end up drafting a climate bill that is more modest than original expectations.

“What is dead is some massive cap-and-trade system that regulates carbon in a fashion that drives up energy costs,” Graham told the newspaper.

But Graham aides said the quote was taken out of context. And Graham told reporters that he is simply skeptical of the cap-and-trade approaches taken in the House-passed climate bill (H.R. 2454), as well as a similar bill approved last fall by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (S. 1733).

Kerry, Graham and Lieberman are working behind closed doors on a new measure that puts a limit on carbon while expanding domestic energy production. Absent a marriage between those two issues, Graham said he doubted anything would ever pass the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster.

“There will never be 60 votes, ladies and gentlemen, for the energy independence package that I so much want for our nation,” Graham said during a conference hosted by labor, farming, military veteran and environmental groups. “And there will never be 60 votes for climate change legislation as it exists today. And it’d be a shame if that’s the end of this story. That would be unacceptable to me and to you and a lot of other people.”

Yes, the conventional wisdom says it still a very steep climb — see Grist’s Dave Roberts in his piece, “Cap-and-trade death knell, revisited and revised.”  Roberts may be right, but I’m a “glass is one third full” guy, so let me end with another swing Senator who wants a bill, but knows he might not get it:

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a swing vote on the issue, told reporters that he would prefer to see Congress pass legislation capping greenhouse gas emissions so long as it dealt with trade-sensitive industries such as aluminum, chemical, glass and steel. “I want to vote for a cap-and-trade bill,” Brown said.

But Brown also said the Senate may have to pull back if opponents do not budge. “We’ll move as fast as we can on elements of this, and maybe it’s comprehensive, and maybe it’s not,” he said. “But that doesn’t matter to voters. And that doesn’t matter to CO2 as long as we do it right.”

What a shame it would be if a handful of weak-kneed Senators blocked the best chance the nation and the world had in a generation to preserve a livable climate and advanced energy independence, while creating jobs and reducing pollution (see “The central question for 2010: Will anti-science ideologues be able to kill the bipartisan climate and clean energy jobs bill?“).

4 Responses to Lindsey Graham: “The idea of not pricing carbon, in my view, means you’re not serious about energy independence. The odd thing is you’ll never have energy independence until you clean up the air, and you’ll never clean up the air until you price carbon.”

  1. “What is dead is some massive cap-and-trade system that regulates carbon in a fashion that drives up energy costs,” Graham told the newspaper.

    Kerry, Graham and Lieberman are working behind closed doors on a new measure that puts a limit on carbon while expanding domestic energy production.

    I think we have eliminated all the confusion except the confusion in Graham’s own mind. If you limit carbon emissions, then you limit use of coal to generate electricity. That will raise prices somewhat, even if you promote off-shore drilling and nuclear power. (In fact, it will raise prices much more if you promote nuclear power.)

  2. Tim L. says:

    Good on Graham. I may be left-leaning, but I also know that the only way we’ll get a climate & energy bill is with sufficient bipartisan support. We’d be foolish to hold out for the “perfect” bill, which simply would allow climate disinformers to keep chipping away at support with their Swiftboat b.s. We can ill afford a replay of the dynamic that has all but killed health care reform.

  3. Jeff Huggins says:

    “Mommy, why is the climate such a mess, and why are so many people starving and being displaced, and why didn’t adults in your generation do something?”

    “Well you see, Little Mary, the leaders couldn’t get 60 votes.”

    “60 votes?”

    “Yes, you see, even though the Constitution itself doesn’t call for 60 votes, nor do basic democratic ideals, nor did Thomas Jefferson define democracy as ’60 votes’, nevertheless, the Senate chose to impose a 60-vote procedural rule upon itself, at some point in history, and they let that 60-vote self-imposed procedural rule become more ‘important’ than science, human safety, our responsibilities to each other, and our responsibilities to future generations, i.e., to people like you.”

    “Mommy, are you saying that people are stupid, irresponsible, and immoral and that they lose sight of the big picture?”

    “Time for bed, Little Mary.”

  4. James Newberry says:

    You can NOT solve a problem (“reducing pollution”) by creating many more problems (increasing nuclear pollution and decreasing national security). I will work to defeat this corrupting triad of atomic fission ideologues, who want to give unlimited taxpayer bailouts to the long dead (and corrupt) atomic fission weapons-born “industry.”

    If the senators want to stop something, then try eliminating all the trillions of dollars the senate has been pouring into “fuels,” i.e. the mined material resources (fossil and fissile) you idiotically believe are “energy.”

    (Where is my nuclear bailout bucket?)