As Maine goes so goes the climate bill: Olympia Snowe is open to cap on utility emissions, while Susan Collins is as incoherent as Lindesy Graham will Republican votes for an energy bill that contains some carbon pricing mechanism come from?

Lindsey Graham remains as incoherent as ever.  On the one hand he has said he is open to a cap on emissions from utilities (see “It’s alive!“), but on the other he has said he wants to push it “next year.”  Ma±ana, ma±ana, ma±ana.

I’m still scoring him as a “yes,” if a bill actually comes up for a vote.

The next two likeliest Republicans to support some sort of cap are the Maine Senators — Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.  Both have spoken out strongly about the need for climate action.  Indeed, Snowe cochaired an international Task Force that endorsed a 2°C target back in 2005 (see “Meeting the Climate Challenge“).

But as we have seen with Graham, that doesn’t mean on any given day you can count on their votes.  Indeed, all three voted for Murkowski’s Dirty Air resolution that would have blocked the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions as required by the Supreme Court.  Taking the optimistic spin, that means they prefer Congressional action EPA regulation.

The good news is that EnergyGuardian (subs. req’d) reports today:

A key potential Republican backer of climate legislation, Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said Tuesday that a utility-only cap would be acceptable to her. She was, however, not optimistic one could be adopted.

“It’s uncertain as to whether or not we have enough of a consensus even to move on a limited version of (an emissions reduction bill)” she said.

So let’s call that two GOP votes.

In a story oddly titled, “Republicans to tell Obama to drop carbon caps,” ClimateWire (subs. req’d) reports that

Collins, of Maine, will emphasize the role of a bill she introduced with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) that would cap carbon emission from refiners and other upstream emitters. The “cap and dividend” bill would direct 75 percent of the money raised by selling carbon permits to taxpayers.

“I’m going to tell [Obama], as I’ve said many times before, that I think cap and trade is dead. If he wants to do a clean energy bill, he needs a different approach,” Collins said.

Hmm.  Has no one explained to Collins that her bill caps carbon emission and then allows regulated entities to trade emissions?  Even NASA’s James Hansen says “the Cantwell-Collins bill, is still a cap-and-trade scheme, and its low carbon price and offset-type projects create little incentive for clean energy and would have only small impact on carbon emissions.


Certainly one can design a utility cap that allows no more trading than Cantwell-Collins. So I am going to put her down as a ‘yes’ and say that is three GOP votes.

I also believe one can design a comprehensive energy bill with a utility cap that gets 57 Democratic votes — particularly if the President puts the same kind of muscle behind it that he did for the healthcare bill.  Moreover, I would expect a reasonable shot at other Republicans, starting with Scott Brown (R-MA) and George LeMieux of Florida.

Indeed, E&E News (subs. req’d) reported that LeMieux was downright enthusiastic about the idea (for a Republican):

LeMieux said yesterday that he had yet to decide on the latest proposal.

“I’m just listening and learning and talking with a lot of folks,” he said. “I think energy independence and alternative energy is one of the most pressing issues facing this country, so I think it is time to deal with it.”

Remember, LeMieux is a seat warmer and stalking horse for Charlie Crist, who is now basically running as a Democrat in Florida!  So he would have a hard time voting against a well-crafted spill bill.

As wholly inadequate as it is to address the climate challenge, I really hope that a utility cap comes up for a vote.   The nation has an urgent need to start pricing carbon and jumpstarting the transition to a clean energy economy.  We need to force Senators to go on the record for this mildest of climate actions, to see whether all of their talk about clean energy, energy independence, and pollution reduction is more than just talk.

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6 Responses to As Maine goes so goes the climate bill: Olympia Snowe is open to cap on utility emissions, while Susan Collins is as incoherent as Lindesy Graham

  1. Peter Mizla says:

    Snowe is sort of reasonable for a republican, Collins less so.

    The GOP vote mostly in lockstep. .

    Snowe cannot be naive enough to even believe that capping CO2 for a 2 degree C rise in global temperatures is now even remotely possible.

    I wonder if any of these politicians from either party realize we will see a 3 degree C rise likely by late this century- with at least a 50/50 chance of four degrees- amazing the blindness.

  2. SecularAnimist says:

    Joe, I don’t envy your job of trying to make sense of the steady stream of double-talk emanating from the Senate.

    As far as I am concerned it is all a fraud. The Democratic leadership as well as the Republicans are obviously primarily concerned with protecting the interests of the fossil fuel corporations against the public interest in phasing out the use of fossil fuels, with the Democrats working to do that through a “compromise” bill, and the Republicans working to do that through blocking any bill at all.

    I wonder if you might comment on independent Senator Bernie Sanders’ letter to Harry Reid?

    I think it serves as a good “reality check” against the nonsense coming from the Democrats and Republicans.

  3. Sameer Ranade says:


    What about the six democrats that voted for the Murkowski resolution?:

    • Evan Bayh IN
    • Mary Landrieu LA
    • Blanche Lincoln AR
    • Ben Nelson NE
    • Mark Pryor AR
    • Jay Rockefeller WV

    Let’s say that 3 of them vote for a bill that would include a utility only cap. That would us leave us needing 4 more votes. This would mean that we’d need to get Graham, Snowe, Collins, and (LeMieux or Brown)? But if we only get 2 of the above mentioned 6 Democrats to vote for such a bill then the challenge becomes tougher. Also, do you think Conrad, Dorgan, Webb, and Warner would all be behind the bill? I’m making that assumption.

    [JR: I’m not saying that this is going to be easy, only that if the president is willing to show some backbone, as he did today by firing McChrystal, he can get 67 Dems. Note that this scenario may require the tough vote to be after the election after a conference with the House, if a non-capped bill were to pass the Senate this summer.]

  4. mike roddy says:

    Whatever happened to principle? Climate legislation is just as much a life or death issue as decisions over going to war, and probably more so. It’s quite sickening to watch fickle, fence sitting Senators delight in the power that derives from people on both sides pursuing their votes.

  5. Has no one explained to Collins that her bill caps carbon emission and then allows regulated entities to trade emissions?

    She said she didn’t like the cap and trade proposals so she co-wrote a bill that changes how permits are issued, how trading is regulated and who can buy the permits-which also changes what users would actually do with.

    But it’s somehow disingenuous for her to label approach anything other then cap and trade?

  6. Andy says:

    Counting votes – especially Republican votes – in the Senate, regarding climate, seems like a tough job these days. Yes, it would be great if we could get 3-5 Republican Senate votes for a utility cap. I certainly hope we do. But I think the best we can put for any of these guys (and several Dems) is a *maybe*.