Stick a fork in the energy-only bill: Lindsey Graham (R-SC) slams push for a “half-assed energy bill”

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"Stick a fork in the energy-only bill: Lindsey Graham (R-SC) slams push for a “half-assed energy bill”"

“If the lesson from health care is let’s not do anything hard, then why don’t we all go home… But if we go home, China won’t.”

If it’s climate and energy independence and clean energy jobs, there is no in between — at least not for the conservative senator from South Carolina.  Today, Graham told a group of 200 business leaders who advocate comprehensive legislation:

Every day we wait in this nation China is going to eat our lunch. The Chinese don’t need 60 votes.  I guess they just need 1 guys vote over there – and that guy’s voted.

What Congress is going to come up here and do all these hard things?  Who are these people in the future? Because we constantly count on them.  I don’t know who they are.  I’ve yet to find them.

So I guess it falls to me and you.  So let’s do it.

Who would have guessed that Lindsey Graham — among the 20 most conservative U.S. Senators in 2008 — would have more of a backbone for a comprehensive bill than many Senate progressives and the President himself!

Yes, as expected, the President set the record straight today on his utterly misinterpreted remarks yesterday that led to TPM’s sensational headline, “Stick A Fork In Cap-and-Trade.”  In remarks to Senate Democrats today, Obama praised Graham’s efforts with Lieberman and Kerry to “find a workable, bipartisan structure so that we are incentivizing and rewarding the future”:

So don’t give up on 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.  The market works best when it responds to price.

Good statement, but compare it to Graham’s:

If the approach is to try to pass some half-assed energy bill and say that’s moving the ball down the road, forget it with me.

Graham has emerged as the best at messaging on the comprehensive bill (see Lindsey Graham: “Every day that we delay trying to find a price for carbon is a day that China uses to dominate the green economy” and 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.“)

But he isn’t alone in seeing political problems with the half-assed approach.  As E&E Daily reported two weeks ago in its piece, “Offshore drilling language poses problems for ‘energy only’ bill“:

“Energy only” backers have portrayed such legislation as a path to a bipartisan achievement, particularly in the wake of the Massachusetts Senate election widely seen as a repudiation of the Democrats’ ambitious agenda.

But while liberal and coastal lawmakers might have been willing to allow more offshore drilling in exchange for a cap on greenhouse gas emissions, they are less likely to give up that leverage if a cap-and-trade plan is jettisoned.

“There are provisions that are more difficult for us to accept if they’re not part of a comprehensive bill,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “In a broader package I am more understanding of some of the other regional concerns.”

And Graham has been clear on this to fellow conservatives:

Conversely, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is trying to put together a joint climate and energy bill has been telling Republicans that they cannot get the offshore drilling, nuclear and other pro-production measures they want without a cap.

“I can get every Republican for an energy independence bill, OK? But there are not 60 votes,” Graham said. “You’re not going to get the nuclear power provisions you want unless you do something on emission controls.”

And the “half-assed” bill would have problems in the House:

And prospects would not be much better in the House. The House cap-and-trade bill did not include any offshore drilling. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is a longtime foe of offshore drilling and once derided the idea that it might lower gas prices as a “hoax.”

But wouldn’t progressives go for some of the clean energy elements of a half-assed bill, like the renewable energy standard?

Daniel Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, said the RES in the Senate energy bill has too many loopholes.

Weiss looks at drilling as the political equivalent of dessert. Measures to reduce greenhouse gases amount to eating your vegetables, he said — not as pleasant, but better in the long run. He worries that any such bill will have too much sugar and not enough broccoli.

“We need a balanced energy menu with vegetables and protein, not just a pile of Cool Whip,” Weiss said.

Well, drilling is only dessert in the way that, say, coal ash is a cereal topping!

But the point is, the Senate energy bill as written is half-assed — maybe quarter-assed.  If you throw in nuclear power and drilling, I don’t think it has a clearer path to Congressional passage than the comprehensive climate and clean energy jobs bill that puts a price on carbon and moves us toward true energy independence.

So it may well be all or nothing at all.

Let me end by excerpting Graham’s remarks today to Business Advocacy Day for Jobs, Climate & New Energy Leadership in DC:

Every day we wait in this nation China is going to eat our lunch. The Chinese don’t need 60 votes.  I guess they just need 1 guys vote over there – and that guy’s voted.

(laughter)

He has decided to do two things:

first, kind of play footsie with us on emissions control stuff but go like gangbusters when it comes to producing alternative energy.  The solar and wind and battery-powered cars is an amazing thing to watch.  And we’re stuck in neutral here.

So my message to you – you’re up here to advocate – advocate.  Let the Congress know that you want a comprehensive approach to two serious problems.

You don’t have to believe that Iowa is going to become beachfront property to want to clean up carbon.

It is not about polar bears to me, it’s about jobs. I like the polar bears as much as anyone else but I want to create jobs.

If just a fraction of what is being predicted about global warming is true, that’s enough to motivate us all.  But if worse thing you did – as Tony Blair would say – is you provided a cleaner environment, I don’t think you’d go down in history in a bad way.

The key in my view to those who believe we should address carbon pollution is to make sure that the energy initiatives that will get us there are done in a package.

If you break this apart you’ll have a watered down solution on both fronts

health care was big – it was controversial – I didn’t like the bill – but that doesn’t mean you can’t do other hard problems.

If lesson from health care is let’s not do anything hard, then why don’t we all go home, which might be good for the country by the way.

But if we go home, China won’t.

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.

My challenge to you and to myself is to not let this moment pass.  This is the best opportunity I’ve seen in my political lifetime for a Republican and Democrat to do something bold and meaningful.

Why did I get involved in this?  I ask myself that a lot.  I saw an opportunity.  I’ve become convinced that carbon pollution is a bad thing, not a good thing, and it can be dealt with, and we can create jobs

This is the time, this is the Congress, and this is the moment.  So if we retreat and try to just go to the energy only approach which will never yield the legislative results that I want on energy independence, then we just made the problem worse.

What Congress is going to come up here and do all these hard things?
Who are these people in the future?
Because we constantly count on them.
I don’t know who they are.  I’ve yet to find them.

So I guess it falls to me and you.

So let’s do it.

The time to act on a comprehensive bill is now.

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18 Responses to Stick a fork in the energy-only bill: Lindsey Graham (R-SC) slams push for a “half-assed energy bill”

  1. paulm says:

    Is this guy going to save the world!

  2. Lee says:

    Nothing ambiguous about that. It’s going to be hard for the media take any of that out of context.

  3. Jerry Levitt says:

    Why are all these topics including Red China?

  4. Prokaryote says:

    We need more such patriots – around the world, in order to save the world.

  5. SecularAnimist says:

    Jerry Levitt says: “Why are all these topics including Red China?”

    Because a lot of people don’t give a damn about destroying the capacity of the Earth to support life, and destroying human civilization along with it, but they do give a damn about money going to China that could be going in their pockets.

  6. Leif says:

    The irony of it all is that if tomorrow the United States got it together and the did the very best it could we still do not guarantee our success. China just might clean our clock anyway. Recall that if you are one in a million in any capacity over here there are a thousand others just like you in China.

  7. Leif says:

    One in a million. I admit that in some respects the United States uses it’s man power more efficiently but if succeeding economically in the world requirers giving more freedoms to its people I am sure that the people will win in China. At the present, here in the good old USA, it appears that the capitalist system is prepared to sacrifice humanity in pursuit of the profit margin. If that is not the thrust of their multi-million dollar disinformation effort then they sure got me fooled.

  8. Ben Lieberman says:

    In addition the United States will have much more leverage in any potential trade disputes with China if the United States has passed comprehensive energy and climate legislation with firm carbon limits.

  9. Matt says:

    Graham hasn’t just taken up the mantle from John McCain as the best hope for cooperation from the Republicans. He has actually become the most effective advocate – Democrat or Republican – in the senate for curbing carbon emissions.
    http://greenenergyreporter.com/2010/02/lindsey-graham-dont-give-me-some-half-assed-energy-bill/

  10. dhogaza says:

    Graham hasn’t just taken up the mantle from John McCain as the best hope for cooperation from the Republicans. He has actually become the most effective advocate – Democrat or Republican – in the senate for curbing carbon emissions.

    My guess is that this is due to an explicit strategic decision …

  11. Be careful that he’s not like McCain in another way: that he is just talk.

    Look at the most recent climate roll call vote.

    As usual only Collins and Snowe voted with all the Democrats – same two Republicans who have always joined Democrats in renewable energy votes, joined Democrats in a 60 vote rejection of an amendment to cut the budget for climate change science that was proposed by Barasso (R-Wyoming).

    http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=111&session=1&vote=00307

  12. Wes Rolley says:

    Well, this is where I see Sen. Graham. He is doing all he can for the nuclear industry and this is the only way he can see to get what they want. I’m probably too simplistic and therefore wrong. But, every time I turn over the nuclear rock, some other deadly thing crawls out.

    Are reactors pretty safe? Sure. Can the nuclear industry compete without subsidy and with out the government taking care of the waste for nothing and everyone ignoring the social cost of the mining process? I seriously doubt it.

  13. Mike says:

    Wes, I don’t think you’re being simplistic about this. Graham has made no secret of his desire to help the nuclear industry as much as possible as part of this bill. He’s well aware that a nuclear-only bill would never pass the Senate.

  14. Ben says:

    If there was a bill to call the bluff og GOP fillibuster, it’s the climate legislation. Aside from people who claim it’s all a ‘Pelosi conspiracy’ or ‘Al Gore Financial Scheme’, Cap and Trade actually has bipartisan support among the sound minded American people. Obama and most Democrats understand that that we don’t have the luxury of time to pass climate legislation. We must do so now, Call out the Democrats who are stalling and pulling a Lieberman. Call out the GOP fillibuster bluff. We have the scientific facts on our side. We have the fate of the globe on our side. They have only ideaology and re-election concerns. The time is now.

  15. Lindsey Graham is not only advocating a rational solution to a difficult problem he is advocating a cost-effective market driven solution. Limit cap-n-trade to smokestacks; put a carbon tax on motor fuels, payable at the pump and disclose life-cycle emissions to consumers. Putting a price on life-cycle carbon emissions from motor fuels will send a market signal to auto makers to mass produce affordable bi-fuel or multi-fuel vehicles that give consumers to buy their fuel of choice. Many will choose to operate on the cleanest, most sustainable low-carbon motor fuel available today — natural gas. Do this now and change the paradigm; after ten years or so of bi-fuel vehicles consumers will be ready to buy affordable advanced technology solutions, like mass produced biofuels, batteries, fuel cells and renewable hydrogen.

  16. espiritwater says:

    Yep, Secular Animist, it’s all about greed. As usual, you hit the nail (how does that saying go?) Anyhow, you hit the nail correctly! (ha!)

    The reason our whole darn civilzation is going down the drain: ignorance and greed.

  17. Leif says:

    As my son would say: “It is fairly obvious that society is incapable rational self government.”
    I do not want a Democratic Government, and Lord knows I do not want a GOP government, I want a RATIONAL Government. You all can play, we do not have to vote you out. Think of all the money you will save! Please just one time! Hell, we might even like it.

  18. Leland Palmer says:

    It’s so weird to actually admire Lindsey Graham.

    Global warming makes strange bedfellows, I guess.

    Why don’t more Republicans realize that it’s their world too?