A day after President Barack Obama recognized that Senate Democrats wish to abandon global warming pollution limits in an energy bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) mocked the approach as “half-assed.” Obama’s remarks yesterday that “it’s conceivable” the Senate will attempt to pass an energy-incentives bill without a plan for reducing carbon pollution opened the floodgates for hyperbolic speculation in the Washington D.C. press that “cap-and-trade is dead.” Several conservative Democrats have advocated that climate legislation be postponed or abandoned in favor of the Bush-lite energy bill approved by Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s (D-NM) energy committee last year. However, speaking at the Business Advocacy Day for Jobs, Climate & New Energy this morning, Graham attacked this approach in no uncertain terms:
There was this idea floating around yesterday – don’t know how serious it is – that somehow it would be wise for Congress to do energy bill only. I don’t think that’s wise. The reason I don’t think that’s wise is that it is a kick-the-can-down-the-road approach. It’s putting off to another Congress what really needs to be done comprehensively.
I don’t think you’ll ever have energy independence the way I want it until you start dealing with carbon pollution and pricing carbon. The two are connected in my view – very much connected. The money to be made in solving the carbon pollution problem can only happen when you price carbon in my view. So if the approach is to try to pass some half-assed energy bill and say that is moving the ball down the road, forget it with me.
Democrats who are denying the critical urgency of reducing carbon emissions — or worse, claiming falsely that an incentive-only package would deliver a low-carbon economy — include Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN), and Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA). Others, like Bingaman, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have indicated their willingness to claim victory with just the passage of the Senate energy package, described by Center for American Progress president John Podesta as “weak, toothless, and unacceptable.”
“If you break this apart you’ll have a watered-down solution on both fronts,” Graham — who last year similarly rebuked Republicans — concluded. “The world is moving, pollution is growing, we’ve got a chance to get ahead and lead. If we wait too long and if we try to take half measures as the preferred route on all these hard problems, they just get worse.”
Obama delivered a less compelling defense of the necessity of a comprehensive bill today, saying that “I don’t want us to just say the easy way out is for us to just give a bunch of tax credits to clean energy companies.”
A cap-and-trade system or the like is the only way America can break the grip of coal and oil companies on the future of our economy, our health, our environment, and our national security. Dependent on the millions of dollars of campaign funds that flow from these polluters, too many senators on both sides of the aisle are willing to put fossil fuel profiteers above the fate of their nation.
Below are recent quotes from senators attempting to justify failing to prevent a climate catastrophe:
Byron Dorgan (D-ND): If you ask somebody who believes fervently in cap and trade and a lower carbon future, ‘What would you specifically do to achieve that?’ they’d talk about the very things we’ve put in this energy bill.
Mary Landrieu (D-LA): We can use that bill [the Senate energy committee package] and combine it with parts of the jobs package and really lay out a framework to get America working again… I think energy is the best place we could go right now to create jobs.
Evan Bayh (D-IN): I think this is a very difficult time, given the state of the economy… And the lack of a firm commitment on the part of other nations. That makes it more difficult. That’s not to say progress can’t be made. If I were advising the president, I would focus on energy security, job creation in the energy space that would have the additional advantage of helping to address carbon emissions but do it an economically friendly way.
Sherrod Brown (D-OH): He brought [climate] up because it’s a great moral issue of our time… He wants to keep it on the agenda. We’re going to do bits and pieces of it, major parts of it, even if we don’t do the entire climate change bill. We’re going to address a lot of these issues… I think any approach we can do that we can put the votes together is the best approach… I’m open to anything.
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI): The economy is the reason we have to focus on clean energy manufacturing, because that’s the jobs. I think we’ll see an energy bill; whether it be the bill coming out of committee or a more comprehensive bill, I’m not sure.
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA): I don’t think anybody has given up on cap and trade. I think big, comprehensive bills are very difficult to do in this environment, regardless of what it is. I tend to be an incrementalist. I say do what you can do, when you can do it. Because everything is opportunity and timing. If you have both, you can get it done. If you have only one, it’s very difficult to get it done.
Jim Webb (D-VA): I’m very skeptical of cap-and-trade as a concept.
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM): I want to see us pass what we’ve been able to report out of committee. If we’re able to pass more, that’s great too.