It’s trendy to be undead these days. Sure sexy teenage vampires get all the media attention. But don’t forget those mad (political) scientists who toil tirelessly in their labs, assembling the best (worst?) parts of corpses, mixing in 100 million gallons of oil, and zapping the finished product with, say, the enormous power furnished by an electric (utility) cap.
I think we might call the resulting assemblage Lugar-Kerry-Lieberman-Graham-Cantwell-Collins-Waxman-Markey-Bingaman. The conventional wisdom for months in this town, as I’ve noted many times, has been that a climate bill is dead, dead, dead. How dead? We’re talking stick a fork in it and eat it with fava beans and a nice chianti!
As an aside, Hannibal Lecter may well have been the original Tea Partier, since the full quote is “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” But I digress.
Yes, it turns out, that as with the hero in the Princess Bride, the climate bill was only “mostly dead” after being put on the rack for a full year.
With the kind of dramatic irony one expects to see in the movies, the people who killed the climate bill are the very ones to jolt it back to life — and just like in the movies, you never come back from the grave quite the same way you left.
So of all people it was Lindsey Graham, Republican of Transylvania, who said he would be open to an energy bill that capped electric utility emissions, in an interview after Obama’s big energy speech last week:
Interestingly, on Friday, Rahm Emanuel — one of the vampires most often blamed for sucking the lifeblood out of team Obama on energy and environmental matters [see The unbearable lameness of being (Rahm and Axelrod)] — also endorsed “a limited Senate climate bill that focuses on capping greenhouse gases from power plants“:
Rahm Emanuel told the Wall Street Journal that “a whole range of ideas will be discussed” when Obama hosts senators at the White House next Wednesday, including placing a mandatory limit solely on the heat-trapping emissions from electric utilities.
“The idea of a ‘utilities only’ [approach] will also be welcomed,” Emanuel told the newspaper in an interview.
Obama is expected to discuss the pending Senate energy and climate bill with about a dozen Democrats and Republicans at the White House, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Lisa Murkowksi (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).
I’m not certain how useful such a big meeting is, and having Dirty Air Lisa there is a complete waste of time, if not directly counterproductive.
There are currently two scenarios for getting the cap on utility emissions — one where it is included voted on this summer directly in the Senate bill voted on this summer, and the other where the Senate passes an energy only bill and a utility cap is conferenced in after the election (since the House climate bill had an economy-wide cap and this would be the compromise).
My sources give the overall odds of something like this happening at maybe 50-50. E&E News (subs. req’d) reported on the optimism of key climate bill cosponsor Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT):
Lieberman said yesterday the Senate has a “fighting chance” at getting the 60 votes needed to pass a bill that caps carbon dioxide emissions, especially now that Obama is making the bill a priority.
“I’ll tell you what my count is in the Senate,” Lieberman said. “There are 50 — in my opinion, there are about 50 senators who want to vote for a strong comprehensive energy bill that puts a price on carbon pollution. There are 30 who are set against it and there are 20 undecided.
“You have got to get to 60 to pass anything in the Senate. We need half of the undecided, and we can do it. And the fact that the president has now made this a priority, and not just in his Oval Office statement last week, but in reaching out during the week on the phone and calling a bipartisan group of us to the White House Wednesday, I think we have got a fighting chance at this,” Lieberman added.
Now you are probably wondering whether this undead hodgepodge bill would be better than no bill at all, would it be good monster or a bad monster, a funny Young Frankenstein monster, or the kind of tortured creature in the original Mary Shelley book, “a sensitive, emotional creature whose only aim is to share his life with another sentient being like himself.”
That depends on what parts are used to create it, of course. I’ll blog later on the pros and cons of a possible bill, but a good place to start for now is the piece by Grist’s Dave Roberts, “Is a “utility-only” cap-and-trade bill worth passing?“