20 environmental and climate groups applaud progress on Senate climate and clean energy jobs bill, will work to shape details

The details of the bipartisan climate and clean energy bill are starting to leak out (see here).

Twenty environmental, climate and progressive groups — including the one I work for — have issued a statement “in reaction to a late Thursday meeting with Senator John Kerry”:

“We are encouraged by the progress being made by Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman to craft comprehensive climate and energy legislation to bring to the Senate floor later this year.

“Their stated goal and commitment to a 17% reduction in carbon pollution by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050 represents the leadership needed by the US Senate to create jobs, increase energy security, reduce carbon pollution and protect public health. Legislative details are important, and are not settled yet, and we will be working closely with the senators, their staffs and others to make sure these details achieve the goals.”

I would add that if you don’t think Sen. Kerry is working as hard as possible to put together the strongest possible bill that could get the necessary votes, then you don’t know the Senator and his remarkable quarter-century record of championing clean energy and environmental issues.

The 20 groups issuing this statement are: The Alliance for Climate Protection, Environment America, Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, Blue Green Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists, National Tribal Environmental Council, ENE (Environment Northeast), National Audubon Society, Interfaith Power and Light, Conservation International, Defenders of Wildlife, Clean Water Action, The Wilderness Society, Climate Solutions, Environmental Law and Policy Center.

14 Responses to 20 environmental and climate groups applaud progress on Senate climate and clean energy jobs bill, will work to shape details

  1. SecularAnimist says:

    Joe quoted: ““Their stated goal and commitment to a 17% reduction in carbon pollution by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050 represents the leadership needed by the US Senate …”

    Contrast those “goals” with what mainstream climate science (e.g. the IPCC) tells us is needed if we are to have any hope of avoiding the worst outcomes of anthropogenic global warming.

    Or better yet, don’t. It’s such a nice day. Why spoil it.

    [JR: I’ve done the contrast many times on this blog — you can find a post on the sidebar that does. I’ll do a post next week on this. But these goals go back to Obama and Clinton and haven’t changed much, so it isn’t really news.]

  2. Leif says:

    I tend to feel that any start is better than NO start. Is it enough? Not by a long shot. The fight will go on.

  3. James Newberry says:

    Clean energy as in “clean coal,” clean hydralic-fractured methane, off-shore oil, corny ethanol and of course “clean, green, safe” atomic fission may be coming to a neighborhood near you, thanks to the uniquely powerful American version of privatized profits and socialized costs, observed by concerned and compromized environmental groups.

    Miners rejoice, more “jobs” (or clean energy job destruction due to mining agendas) and Treasury transfers to those extractive corporations and their many, many associates.

    Hope you don’t detect any lack of trust by me in Traitor Joe and The Three Stooges. We do have to keep our weapon systems (based on fossil and fissile materials) functional come hell or high water, right? We can’t let the fossil industry go bankrupt even though we are? They need to keep above water so they can float over to China for the next round of exploitation. Speaking of above water, how about those one thousand square mile icebergs? Ain’t they somethin’?

  4. Ross Hunter says:

    One of the reasons I like this site is the way it tracks policy. I agree that we have to start somewhere, but this is more than just being grateful for crumbs. Anything in national politics that moves in a certain direction means there’s that much less force moving in the opposite, and more mass to generate gravity and attraction in that same direction. Congress is a train that takes a while to build up steam. What matters is the direction. There is cause for optimism amid the despair.

  5. To all eco-purists ready to complain, don’t!

    Remember that the US was set up 200 years ago to give every state an equal number of Senators, regardless of no. of voters.

    This has resulted in empty states with under 600,000 adult voters (with limited access to information/overexposure to Fox News), and (typically empty states are mining coal)at the same time – these states have huge fossil industries that have AN EQUAL voice with the Senator Boxers of the Senate (she represents 30 million educated urban people, and votes as we’d like).

    These bottom 10 over-powerful empty fossil states like Wyoming, (90% coal/under a million voters) Alaska, North Dakota (90% coal/under a million voters) etc, have way WAY too much influence.

    Therefor, (DUE TO SOMETHING WE CANNOT CHANGE: Senate makeup) it is impossible to EVER get the exact votes in the Senate for the exact policies we all would want if the US was set up more intelligently.

    So, PLEASE stop berating the policies we get. Work together this time, and we’ll at least get something passed.

    It is our purists who (inadvertently) worked with the fossil industry-Fox News-Republicans to kill the CEJAPA by pissing and moaning about Wall St. fatcats benefiting from cap and trade.

    I urge all of us on the side of the future – Lets not kill this version too, PLEASE.

  6. john atcheson says:

    My concern about this is that it won’t be “a start” as Lief and others contend, but rather a finish.

    I spent 32 years in Washington working on environmental issues and frequently, working with legislation and regulation. In most cases, a law tended to freeze action for at least a decade. The CAA of 1970 got minor amendments in 1977 and more substantive amendments in 1990, for example. And these amendments came about as a result of tangible insults that were already occurring, not prospective damage as with climate.

    So here’s the deal — if we don’t trumpet loud and clear how abysmally inadequate these bills are, then they won’t be a start, they’ll be an end for at least a decade.

    The refrain will be, “Let’s let this settle in and see how it’s doing.”

    In 2020, when it becomes evident that they were woefully inadequate, we may start the five year process for more substantive legislation. In 2025, when that passes, it will be too late.

    So, by all means let’s applaud the start, but let’s be very clear that it is only a start, a very poor one at that, and that it must be followed up immediately with more substantive law within five years.

    If we who understand this issue don’t it, no one else will. The nation will declare victory where there is none, and move on.

    And that would be a tragedy.

  7. Per #6, John Atcheson, you say, “In most cases a law tended to freeze action for a decade.”

    A serioius question: do you have some empirical data to support that?

    The reason I ask is because my own knee-jerk biases incline me toward Voltaire’s saying to the effect that, “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” For example, I’m inclined to believe that if we waited for Social Securiity or Medicare or Medicaid to be perfect, then we would not now have any of these programs in any form at all. It is only in virtue of the fact that we had flawed programs in place that it was possible to make these programs better.

    Consequently, I would argue that in order to substantiate your claim you need to address the question, “How long does not having a law tend to freeze action?” For example, how long has health-care reform been frozen by not having anything in place? Do we get to count that freeze from the last time anyone attempted it, or from the last time anyone succeeded in getting something done? How much longer would that freeze have been had no one ever gotten anything done on the subject?

    I admit my own responses are entirely impressionistic. But just as it is always easier to get forgiveness than permission, it is always easier to incrementally improve a bad law than to implement a perfect one at a single stroke.

  8. Dorothy says:

    Thanks to John Acheson for his good comment. In response to Logic Deferred, I’m may be getting a little impressionistic, too, but here’s another way to look at this.

    Say you’re dehydrated, running a fever, bleeding, sweating and wracked with pain. You head for the nearest doctor’s office. He/she gives you some medicine to control your symptoms, telling you:

    (A) It’s not a cure
    (B) It’s only half the dosage required, and
    (C) You will experience life-threatening and unavoidable side-effects.

    Wouldn’t you want to find another doctor, one who could prescribe a safer and more effective medication?

    The cure for our energy and climate ailments may already be at hand. Why ignore the alternative bill, the Cantwell/Collins CLEAR Act?

  9. Dorothy, your example really fails as an analogy, since it presupposes as somehow just given that which is, in point of fact, in dispute: that doing nothing opens up the option of doing something better.

    What if there is no other doctor, there is not other medicine, and your choice is the one that we’ve actually been discussing: doing something that is less than perfect or doing nothing at all? Declaring that you’ve heard of another, purely abstract possibility, but which has no actual chance of ever coming to your hand does not function as a meaningful alternative.

    What I might want is altogether irrelevant, since the question at hand is what can actually be done. No amount of wishful thinking can alter that.

    Cantwell/Collins is only an option if it has a REAL possibility of being passed. But there is no amount of hand-wringing that will make that reality come to be if it is not already present.

    The perfect is the enemy of the good.

  10. Dorothy says:

    Logic Deferred, may I call you Gary? Thank you for your thoughtful and well-intentioned response, which I do see a problem with, however.

    The perfect is the true enemy of the good ONLY when the effort to make it happen isn’t there. Instead of “hand-wringing,” US thinkers, activists and insiders all should be working together to build the political will to choose the best course of action. Cantwell/Collins will only become a political reality IF this happens.

    Those big, important, well-funded organizations listed should, just this once, put aside their need to get every last dollar from anywhere they can and work together to save their country and their planet.

  11. Dorothy, feel free (per my name, that is. The monicker is just what passes for humor with me.)

    I agree with your “shoulds”, but there are substantive logical and practical differences between “is” and “ought,” and these differences are often enough all the difference in the world.

    The reason Voltaire’s quip is so apposite here is that while “the perfect” is what should or ought to be the case, “the good” is typically all that can actually be made to be the case. Consequently, the uncompromisingly ideological insistence upon what “should” be the case causes what is the case to be substantially worse, by sending the actually achievable good swirling down the drain.

    (Sorry for the granola of metaphors … )

  12. Though this news might not really be enough and not everyone will be impressed by what these environmental groups do, it’s still worthy to note that they are doing something for the environment in contrast to not doing anything. Yet, despite these efforts, many of us are hoping that they will do more than these and that this will not just be the first and the last of their actions towards environmental protection but this will be the beginning.

  13. Re all the Perfect versus Good argument: The EU is surging ahead of the US in renewable development. Passing Kyoto, and subsequently setting up the ETS has led to real reductions in GHGs there, EVEN THOUGH the European Trading System had many flaws. It still worked! The findings by The German Marshall Fund in a giant pdf summarized here:

    Here local legislation has worked, like the 4 states that lowered their GHGs like Europe:

  14. Buck Neelis says:

    Thanks Susan for posting site ref. Europe. I’m in a State that is considered a “energy State” with the corresponded strong conservative sentiments and policy makers. As such we are challenged to find how we can present a message that can flip the arguments posed. I’ve been tracking the K-L-G process and especially Grahams approach with the emphasis on national security. I tend to agree with some of the posts that say that this may not be everything we would like to see, but it’s time to move to whatever we can get as long as it addresses the overall issue of carbon imbalance. Just two points at this time.
    a) As per utility plants, a policy that has driven the development of clean technologies in Europe and in Gainesville Fl. has been the implementation of an effective Feed In Tariff mechanism. I’m looking forward to see how the Vermont FIT operates. There are several varieties of such but when properly designed and supported they address two issues. 1. They are simple to understand, and 2. other than government setting the tariffs there is no government involvement thereafter but are contractual relationships between the utility provider and the supply of the renewable power. I’ve actually gotten some positive feedback on FIT from some of most conservative policy makers.

    b) As per fossil fuels, I’m very curious inregards to the “carbon tariff” concept. My State is considered a major oil producer that has a significant amount of fossil fuels industries that use oil as a feedstock to produce such things as gasoline and other petro based raw products. What is even more significant is that as we have already peaked of the easily accessible oil we are now importing oil to keep the industries operating. I.e. we are now bringing in oil from OPEC, Mexico and other nations who may or may not have regulations on carbon. This point of contention has been raised by many down here is that we should put a tax on such at port of entry. The revenue stream would be significant and as a selling point, remember flipping the argument, it would modify the current disadvantage that the importers have over our fossil fuels producers, primarily the natural gas industry.