Senate climate and clean energy jobs bill is coming Wednesday. Lieberman and Kerry are optimistic, Graham is incoherent

The big day is almost upon us.  And the two amigos are confident about the Wednesday launch of their long-awaited climate and clean energy jobs bill.

In a joint statement, Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) write:

We are more encouraged today that we can secure the necessary votes to pass this legislation this year in part because the last weeks have given everyone with a stake in this issue a heightened understanding that as a nation, we can no longer wait to solve this problem which threatens our economy, our security and our environment.  Our optimism is bolstered because there is a growing and unprecedented bi-partisan coalition from the business, national security, faith and environmental communities that supports our legislation and is energized to work hard and get it passed.

Lieberman said on Fox News Sunday that even with the (presumably modified) offshore drilling proposals in the bill, “I think we’ve got a real shot at this.”

The third amigo is AWOL, to mix metaphors.  But though Lindsey Graham (R-SC) won’t be seen, he will be heard.  In fact, he’s talking so much it is no longer possible to figure out what he means and/or thinks.

Based on an interview last Wednesday, we had the NYT headline (via Greenwire), “I’m in this to Win,” Graham says of Senate climate bill. Then we had the Thursday Politico piece, “Graham unlikely to fold on energy bill.”  But Friday we had the WashPost headline, “Graham says climate bill cannot pass Senate.”

Whiplash!  Actually, the Post headline didn’t quite reflect exactly what Graham said, but given the Senator’s self-contradictory incoherence, the Post is only partly to blame.  Here’s Graham’s full statement:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made these statements on cap-and-trade, offshore drilling, and future prospects of energy reform legislation.

On the Death of Cap-and-Trade

“The House-passed cap and trade bill is dead.  It has been replaced by a new model that focuses on energy independence, job creation and cleaner air.

“I appreciate the work of Senators Kerry and Lieberman who have been good allies in trying to move this debate in a new, more productive direction.  I am particularly proud of the efforts we have made in creating a renaissance in nuclear power which leads to energy security and fosters job creation.

“As I have previously indicated, a serious debate on energy legislation is significantly compromised with the cynical politics of comprehensive immigration reform hanging over the Senate.  In addition to immigration, we now have to deal with a catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico which creates new policy and political challenges not envisioned in our original discussions.  In light of this, I believe it would be wise to pause the process and reassess where we stand.”

On Offshore Drilling and Gulf Coast Disaster

“Some believe the oil spill has enhanced the chances energy legislation will succeed.  I do not share their view.  Our original legislation included an expansion of off shore drilling with revenue sharing. It doesn’t take long for one to conclude that opposition to expanded offshore drilling with revenue sharing has grown among certain Senate Democrats.  Some have even declared energy legislation “dead on arrival” if it contains an expansion of offshore drilling.  I respect their position and I know they are sincere in their beliefs.  However, I have come to a different conclusion on the issue and strongly believe that in order to become energy independent we must include these options.

“When it comes to getting 60 votes for legislation that includes additional oil and gas drilling with revenue sharing, the climb has gotten steeper because of the oil spill.

“I remain committed to safely expanding offshore drilling because I know oil will be part of our nation’s energy plan for years to come.  Every barrel we can find in the United States is one less we have to import from OPEC.  And today, some of the dollars we spend on imported oil find their way into the hands of terrorists who wish to harm our nation.

“As a Senator from a coastal state, and in light of the historic oil spill off the coast of Louisiana, I think it makes sense to find out what happened, enact safety measures to prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future, and then build consensus for the expanded offshore drilling our nation needs.”

Future Prospects for Energy Legislation

“When it comes to our nation’s policy on energy independence and pollution control, I don’t believe any American finds the status quo acceptable.  Many senators from both parties have stated that Congress should set energy and carbon pollution policy, not the EPA.  I could not agree more.  Therefore, we should move forward in a reasoned, thoughtful manner and in a political climate which gives us the best chance at success.  Regrettably, in my view, this has become impossible in the current environment.

“I believe there could be more than 60 votes for this bipartisan concept in the future.  But there are not nearly 60 votes today and I do not see them materializing until we deal with the uncertainty of the immigration debate and the consequences of the oil spill.”

What does that mean?  Who knows?

I don’t think there is a lot of uncertainty about whether immigration is coming to the Senate floor anytime soon.  It’s not.  And if Graham is going to float “the uncertainty of … the consequences of the oil spill,” well, again, what does that mean?

So just add this to the multitude of conflicting statements he’s given in the past few weeks:

The rest of us will have to press on with this best-they-can-do proposal that is still infinitely-better-than-no bill.  Details to come.

13 Responses to Senate climate and clean energy jobs bill is coming Wednesday. Lieberman and Kerry are optimistic, Graham is incoherent

  1. Wonhyo says:

    “…creating a renaissance in nuclear power…”

    Do our politicians realize that nuclear power is another man made natural disaster waiting to happen? If we couldn’t prevent 3 Mile Island, Chernobyl, Exxon Valdez, or the Gulf Oil Gusher, what makes us think we can run nuclear power safely?

    And that’s without even going into nuclear waste storage issues.

  2. Gregory Norminton says:

    Could it be that Senator Graham has lost his nerve? The GOP has been hijacked by the Tea Party (Bennett, hardly a moderate, losing the Utah primary, Crist going independent, McCain struggling to stay on course against a lunatic challenger, etc), and Graham may be worrying about his chances of surviving an eventual purity test within his own party. I fear he will continue to mumble as the bill is unveiled, and that he won’t fight for it. Thus political expediency will trump the survival of our species. If we have any historians a century hence, they will be trawling their thesauruses in search of synonyms for ‘unpardonable’.

    Hope I’m wrong; and Senator, if by any luck you read CP, surprise us all, and secure your place in history.

  3. Andy says:


    Have you ever posted anything on CLEAR? I would be very curiuos to hear your thoughts on the legislation.



    [JR: I have. Search for “Cantwell.”]

  4. Chris Dudley says:

    Wanhyo (#1),

    That disaster is not waiting to happen. It is ongoing. As we produce more waste that we can’t deal with, it continues. As tritium leaks into a major NJ aquifer, it continues. As parts of Europe remain off limits to grazing or even habitation on account of Chernobyl, it continues.

    Just think of a plant nursery in Southern NJ which sends squash and tomato seedlings around the region. Watered with tritiated water, these seedling put a little nuclear waste in everyone’s garden in the form of starches or sugars that end up incorporated in the grower’s body for the long term.

  5. Leif says:

    Though overpopulation is a problem, Nature is brutal and does not allow a population to exceed the capacity of any given ecosystem. Over consumption, on the other hand, coupled with technological and scientific advancements has enabled numerous individuals of a large segment of humanity to have a carbon stomp of a thousand or more third world folks. Give even a million of those carbon stompers access to sustainable energy and you have in effect removed one billion third world folks from the planet. It is not the masses from the third world who are poisoning the water, air and oceans of the world. The third world does not destroy the very life support systems of earth that humanity requires for sustainability. It is we who are changing the climate with green house gasses. Changing the chemistry of the oceans and destroying the base of the food chain with acidification. Covering the seas with plastics and assorted raw hydrocarbons. We first world folks are the ones plucking species with the raw abandon of extinction from ecosystems. Stratifying society with rich at the expense of increasing numbers of poor. Nature has abilities to cope with over population. Nature is powerless to respond to the Ponzi scheme onslaught of a technologically advanced segment of humanity. It is incumbent on the perpetrators of this onslaught to change. Capitalism and corporations can be valuable allies in this endeavor. Currently they both are actively engaged in self-preservation at the expense of humanity, sustainability and earth’s life support systems. It is we who must justify our existence and use our technology and science to bring equality to the masses.

  6. Ben says:

    No No. The bill is completely unacceptable, reckless, and astonishingly weak. It is clear the Senate does not take climate change seriously. Until this changes they should all go home.

    The EPA must not, in any way, to any measure, be restricted of any existing regulatory powers. The bill strips the EPA from regulating stationary sources of CO2. Nothing short of speechless. The EPA is the only gov’t regulatory agency that takes climate chance seriously and actually makes policy based on science not ideology. If any bill strips power from the EPA is should be banished.

    [JR: Nah. It is clear the Senate does not take climate change seriously. What else is new. Replace “Senate” with any major US institution you want to and the sentence remains the same. Hardly a reason for doing nothing.

    If there’s no bill, the EPA is NOT going to use its authority to shut down any significant number of existing coal plants. Sorry to disappoint you about that, but that has been pretty obvious all along, and it was recently confirmed to me by an exceedingly high-ranked person in the administration. Indeed, it’s far from clear that the next Congress won’t just strip what authority the EPA has.

    The bill would enable a global deal and offer a genuine glimmer of hope for future generations as I have explained many times. Promises of what the EPA would do cannot enable a global deal. In fact, one can’t even claim with any confidence they would survive into a subsequent president.]

  7. Mark says:

    The NY Times has a post up entitled “Does the Climate Bill Have a Chance?”

    It has 5 different opinions on this question from

    Kate Sheppard, Mother Jones correspondent
    David Roberts,
    Myron Ebell, Competitive Enterprise Institute
    Frank O’Donnell, Clean Air Watch
    Chip Jacobs, co-author of “Smogtown”

    I’d be interested in your thoughts.

    [JR: David Roberts is a very good analyst!]

  8. Barry says:

    Graham exhibits exactly the same signs of cognitive dissonance that just about everyone else is struggling with on the climate crisis.

    On the one hand people want to continue all their self-defining battles and privileges. On the other they see the real climate threats which require many of their battles and privileges to be abandoned. It leads to see-saw wackiness. People can’t live in this state long and usually need to choose one or the other.

    It isn’t just Graham. It isn’t just GOP. It includes most liberals, independents and even a great deal of environmentalists. They too have to abandon some of the battles they have defined themselves by over the decades.

    Stewart Brand has made it through the other side of cognitive dissonance for example. On the Colbert Report recently he said that because of climate change everything has changed and even many environmentalists have failed to grasp how gigantic and intractable the problem is. Brand admitted that many of the battles he fought in the past are now wrong in the light of climate crisis.

    This internal human-nature inertia is another of the nasty inertia threats that serve to make climate change so hard for humanity to deal with in time.

    Graham needs to decide if he is going to live with the real threats or retreat into head-in-sand denial.

    Most of GOP has decided to oppose physical laws…will Graham?

  9. substanti8 says:

    Senator Graham:

    “I believe it would be wise to pause the process and reassess where we stand.”

    That statement would make sense if “the process” were offshore oil drilling or strip-mining for coal.  But no … he’s suggesting a delay in finding a solution, not a delay in making the problem worse.

    This continual delaying is like a ski-diving leader telling everyone to stop trying to pull the ripcord until they “reassess where they stand.”

    Even with our ecological support lurching toward free-fall, too many leaders still think that “the economy” is more important.

  10. mike roddy says:

    Graham is choking. He’s got plenty of company, too.

  11. substanti8 says:

    I suspect that Graham is under pressure within his party to prevent the British Petroleum Disaster from influencing climate legislation.  Hence the call for delay.

    Although I have not yet seen any actual legislative text, my reading about the Kerry-Lieberman bill tells me it’s so bad that it might even be worse than doing nothing (if that’s possible).  Despite that risk, I support bringing this issue to the floor of the Senate because of the urgency.  But I don’t trust Lieberman at all, and the so-called “environmental” groups in Washington need to find some vertebrae (I know … fat chance) and fight for amendments.

    It is especially important to remove the restrictions on the EPA.  So I agree with Ben (#7).  Randy Cunningham offered an interesting rebuttal today to the contention that the EPA is largely irrelevant:

    “The fact is that the enemies of climate legislation want to do in the EPA as a regulator of GHG emissions, because they know that if they do defeat climate legislation, without taking out the EPA, their victory is incomplete.  The EPA will be sitting out there with a loaded gun.”

  12. Andy says:


    Thanks for referencing your thoughts on CLEAR (and thanks to Dan and Mark for your references to some of Dave Roberts’s thoughts). It seems that the key arguments against the approach in CLEAR are as follows:

    1) It doesn’t address issues of regional equity in its distributions.

    2) It relies on the Congressional budgeting process for funding of clean energy and GHG mitigation initiatives, but without a guarentee that funds will actually be used for this purpose.

    3) It is not politically viable (linked back to 1). Moreover it runs against current momentum (M-W and Obama).

    4) It tries to solve a “Wall Street Trading” problem already solved in W-M and presumably also addressed in KGL (though the phrase “perception is reality” may be applicable here).

    5) The GHG emissions reductions targets are not stringent enough (though given David Roberts’s recent analysis/thoughts in NYT linked to in these comments, and given the information Joe you put up recently on the low cost barrier of switching from coal to natural gas in the electric utility sector in some regions of the U.S., it almost seems that most any price on carbon will drive more substantial emissions reductions than is commonly anticipated in most analyses. Or – perhaps this is the issue here with CLEAR – because it is not an economy-wide cap and trade, CLEAR potentially misses many of the low-cost/negative-cost emissions reduction opportunities Dave and you have discussed?)

    Does this sound like a reasonable summary of the key critiques against the CLEAR approach?

    [JR: Not bad.]

    I feel this is *the* legislative/policy issue of our time; and I want to do everything I can to be properly informed.

    By the way (totally off topic) – I once read a somewhat angry comment on one of Dave Roberts’s posts essentially making the point that we need to take the next step with our analyses and start organizing politically at the local level, start educating/activating voters and putting pressure on our politicians. While I wasn’t a big fan of the anger element in that comment, I think the point being made was a good one. It seems like those who follow CP and comment on it understand the issues well. I would encourage all of us to start working in our local arenas to organize politically and try to start a movement. Especially in light of the oil disaster occuring right now. Whether or not Obama makes the case for a clean energy/low carbon economy in light of this disaster, we can go make that exact case in our local communities (and tailor it to the local cultural norms). My 2 cents, at any rate. [And apologies for the totally divergent topics in this comment!]