Obama pushes Senators for energy bill with carbon price — and so does Olympia Snowe (R-ME)

But conservatives falsely claims pollution is energy and a carbon cap that starts in 2013 is “in the middle of a recession.”

Senators say President Barack Obama is insisting that any energy legislation put a price on carbon emissions “” something many Republicans call an energy tax they can’t accept.

That’s the initial brief AP story after Obama met with a bipartisan group of nearly two dozen senators today.  As Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson notes, the GOP keeps claiming “Pollution Is Energy.”

The UK Guardian pushed the status quo media’s conventional wisdom in their headline “Barack Obama fails to rally support for energy bill.”

In fact, Olympia Snowe issued a long statement endorsing a utility cap but repeating some tired myths — including the nonsensical conservative talking point that taking action on climate starting three years from now would somehow threaten the recovery, when the reverse is true (see Nobelist Krugman attacks “junk economics”: Climate action “now might actually help the economy recover from its current slump” by giving “businesses a reason to invest in new equipment and facilities”).

Here is Snowe’s full statement:

“As I have long advocated, working toward energy independence is an imperative for our economic and national security.  Which is why today I urged the President to seize control of our own energy destiny and, for the first time, establish clearly defined national timetables for clean energy production, benchmarks for oil consumption reduction, and goals for game-changing research – which no other president has ever done, to ensure we actually attain that independence.  Central to this is moving forward with an aggressive energy bill that reorients our nation toward renewable and energy efficiency. This cannot be underestimated in literally transforming our energy supply and yielding tremendous environmental and economic benefits.  Just last year, the U.S. was a global leader in wind with 10,000 Megawatts of facilities constructed at 39 percent growth – and yet, we are in danger of losing that competitive and technological edge to China which grew its wind capacity by 100 percent last year.

“And that is why I have co-authored legislation sponsored by Senator Klobuchar that would establish a strong Renewable Energy Standard of 25 percent by 2025 and worked on the Home Star proposal with Senators Bingaman and Warner, which would provide energy efficiency rebates and long-term tax credits to build an entirely new industry in performance-based efficiency.  While there is consensus among us on energy, on the complex and difficult question of curbing greenhouse gas emissions, there is no consensus at this time. From my perspective, I’ve long asserted that placing a price on carbon will send the appropriate signals to entrepreneurs that would unleash the innovation to position America as a global clean energy industry leader.  However, today we are in different and perilous economic times with last week’s new jobless claims actually increasing by 12,000, to a total of 472,000 Americans, and the full impact of the BP spill is yet unknown.  So it’s essential that we carefully weigh the costs of action versus inaction to avoid unintended consequences that cost us jobs, as well as the distributional effects of any policy we apply and how we mitigate and equalize those effects.”

Again, the Kerry Lieberman bill doesn’t even start until start its cap until 2013 (see “American Power Act to create millions of clean energy jobs, slash pollution and oil use, while boosting U.S. farmers and manufacturers“).

And remember, we learned from EIA in May that Energy-related CO2 emissions are now down nearly 10% from 2005 levels. So the early targets in the APA don’t even start to bite until 2016.  So this typical GOP assertion — “We’ve got to take a national energy tax off the table in the middle of a recession,” said Alexander, chairman of the Senate GOP Conference — is quite false:

Back to Snowe:

“At the same time simply we cannot afford economy-wide approaches to carbon reduction that could cost consumers another 18 cents per gallon of gasoline in this struggling economy or subject our manufacturing sector to unnecessary regulations when they’ve already reduced their emissions by five percent below 1990 levels.  And yet, we also recognize the threat of blanket and ad hoc EPA regulations that would threaten at least 1,600 major employers should we fail to act. Which is why I believe that one possibility is to more narrowly target a carbon pricing program through a uniform nationwide system solely on the power sector which is the sector with the most to lose from the EPA regulations and it’s also the sector in which businesses actually make decisions today based on prices 20 to 30 years in the future.

“The bottom line is that this should be an era of practicality given our economic situation – and whatever Congress pursues should be viewed through that prism, to develop legislation that is pragmatic, reduces uncertainty, and creates business opportunities for a carbon-free economy of the future, without further harming our economy of today.”

Senator Snowe has been a longtime advocate for advancing policies to combat global warming, with her record beginning as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives when she cosponsored the Global Warming Prevention Act more than 20 years ago.  In 2007, Senators Snowe and Feinstein spearheaded the Ten-in-Ten fuel economy standards, landmark legislation to increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, which is the single most effective US law that has addressed climate change.  The regulations based on Senator Snowe’s law were finalized this spring and will eliminate a metric Gigaton of CO2 emissions by saving 1.8 billion barrels of oil.  This Congress, Senator Snowe co-hosted the “U.S. Climate Action: A Global Economic Perspective” symposium on Capitol Hill with Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair, as well as the leaders in the business community to discuss the formulation of U.S. policy on climate change.

Well, as lame as this statement is in many respects, at least she has endorsed a bill with a carbon price.

Brad Johnson notes that most of the “GOBP Put Party Over Planet, Claim Pollution Is Energy“:

The habitability of our planet is threatened by fossil-fueled politicians who can’t tell the difference between pollution and energy. After a White House meeting on energy reform this morning, Republican senators rejected President Obama’s call for a price on carbon pollution, repeating the Newt Gingrich lie that it would be a “national energy tax”:

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN): “As long as we take a national energy tax off the table, there’s no reason we can’t have clean energy legislation.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK): “A cap-and-trade energy tax will not sell at this time. We’ve got to find a path that does not put an added burden on American taxpayers.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who refused to attend the meeting: “I wish the president would focus his attention on stopping the spill and cleaning it up instead of trying to use this crisis as an opportunity to push for a new national energy tax.”

These senators know they’re lying when they equate greenhouse gas pollution with “energy.” Their states are being ravaged by our overheated climate system, including the freak flooding of Nashville and Kentucky and the melting of Alaska’s tundra.

Murkowski is being especially disingenuous about finding a “path that does not put an added burden on American taxpayers.” Right now, American taxpayers are paying the costs of fossil fuel pollution “” the destruction of our health, our oceans, and our climate “” while corporate polluters like oil disaster giant BP rake in the profits.

The rhetoric of these climate peacocks who put party over planet can’t hide their track record of playing the willing stooge for pollution profiteers.

The time to act is now, and those who don’t want to act, those spread falsehoods about even the most modest climate action, must be called out.

16 Responses to Obama pushes Senators for energy bill with carbon price — and so does Olympia Snowe (R-ME)

  1. Have long suspected this but it seems that there is currently no hope for USAnians but, also, US (the rest of the world) because of your politics on climate. Don’t take any offence but tell us is it true that you are really like that? (please don’t take any offence but there is at least a bit of truth in every joke) cudos to the rest of you who’s trying

  2. mike roddy says:

    Snowe’s statement is OK overall, but you can sense the influence of minders like McConnell in some of the language. Instead of just saying that we need to get off fossil fuels, and emphasizing the economic stimulus of doing so, she parroted Republican Party talking points on the subject.

    And Snowe is probably the best one. Eventually Republicans with a clue are going to have to do what Jeffords of Vermont did a few years ago- which is to just come out and say that the mainstream Republican Party has become too corrupt, too ignorant, and too weird to deserve any credence whatsoever. If saying that means that McConnell cuts off the cash, than fine- become a Democrat or Independent.

  3. James Newberry says:

    A price on carbon is not a price on energy. In fact, mined carbon is a material and not an “energy resource” at all, unless civilization is built on fraud.

    With air temperatures in several countries exceeding hot water heater set-points, ominous signs continue to accumulate. Pay no attention to the trillions of dollars of global subsidies (direct, indirect and external) for “fuels,” or should I say fools.

    If you want to price carbon, remove the subsidies (which can be done for the next fiscal year).

  4. Bob G says:

    What is new here is that a Republican is backing a price on carbon in the utility sector. Don’t be distracted by other talking points that you may not like. Despite the negativity I see in some of the enviro comments after this meeting, I see hope for a bill that caps the utility sector.

  5. Jeff Huggins says:

    June 2007

    In June of 2007, someone — I’ll tell you who, later — gave a speech to the Royal Institute For International Affairs, in which he expressed concern about climate change, quoted Bertrand Russell, and explained his company’s early preference for a carbon tax approach (to putting a price on CO2 emissions) rather than a cap-and-trade approach. He actually discussed the matter at some length, explained that his company wanted to figure out the best approach, said that it had been doing analyses to do that, and so forth.

    The speaker: ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson

    The company: ExxonMobil

    That was THREE YEARS AGO now!

    Somebody is dropping a big, big, BIG ball by not following up on that, not pressing Tillerson for answers, not comparing what he said then to what Republicans are doing now, and so forth.

    Andy Revkin? Curtis Brainard? The New York Times?! Bill Keller?! Other mainstream media! Let’s get with it, folks.

    Three years ago, Rex Tillerson said that his company was concerned and that their early preference was for a carbon tax. Three years ago. Now, today, I’m not saying that that should be a preference, or that it’s my preference. But, this whole thing is like playing Bop-a-Mole. Can we please, please, Please follow up with people, hold them accountable, ask for explanations, and try to figure out why ExxonMobil says that it prefers a carbon tax even as Republicans complain that any approach to pricing carbon should be called (the dirty word) ‘tax’.

    The media allow and facilitate this sort of blabbering about terms and this sort of Bop-a-Mole impossible (and impossibly frustrating) game.

    If you’d like to see the press release about the speech, from the organization that hosted it, go here:

    The Chatham House (the Royal Institute For International Affairs) has a members-only Library that (I bet) has a full copy of the transcript of the speech and, perhaps, even a recording and video. Someone should get a copy. ExxonMobil must also have a copy. It was posted on their website for a long time, and then in the archives, although they seem to have eliminated it from the site at this point. I also have a copy or two or three, somewhere deep in my files. In any case, there should be any number of ways of getting your hands on a copy of that speech, and it’s a doozy. If someone wants to write an article or blog piece on the matter, and if ExxonMobil and Chatham House both refuse to provide a copy (so much for transparency), then please let me know, and I’ll find my copy.

    This stuff is ridiculous. I’ve basically had it with most of the mainstream media, who are dropping balls left and right and have forgotten how to follow up with anything important. Whatever happened to investigative journalism?

    Three years ago, Rex Tillerson was saying that ExxonMobil was analyzing the matter and had a preference for a carbon tax. Has ExxonMobil changed its mind? Has it finished its (now) three-year analysis? Does Rex Tillerson agree or disagree with those Republicans who don’t want either a cap-and-trade approach or a carbon tax or anything that can be remotely called a tax? Are these folks playing Bop-a-Mole with us? If so, why are the media letting them get away with it?????!

    If I may say so, many people in the media, who are assigned to this beat, and/or the climate change beat, are increasingly striking me as wimps. You heard me correctly: wimps. Get some grit, people. Climate change is no game.


  6. Anonny says:

    Snowe will of course pull her support for the bill at the last minute as the Gigacorp Owners Party (GOP) always does.

  7. Peter Wood says:

    Even if you didn’t care about the impacts of climate change, it would still make sense to include a carbon price in an energy bill. In a world where climate change is increasingly being thought of as a problem, including a carbon price in an energy bill will provide a certain amount of certainty, which would help investors make decisions about energy infrastructure.

  8. mike roddy says:

    Jeff, #5: Very interesting. I hope someone follows up. It could be that the Board of Exxon is just too reactionary, but who knows?

  9. Mike says:

    Slate analyzed the K-L bill:
    Will the New Climate Bill Damage U.S. Energy Security?
    Slate runs the numbers on one of the skeptics’ favorite arguments.
    By Michael A. Levi and Trevor Houser
    Tuesday, June 15, 2010.

  10. Kevin says:

    The GOP has taken up the mantle of the old Know-Nothing Party — all for reducing oil imports, but make cheap gasoline a requirement for any policy to be acceptable, decry intrusive government and subsidies, unless it means subsidies and mandates for energy or energy techs (which are here today and gone tomorrow and therefore gauranteed to fail), pro-market unless it means actually using a market to lower pollution. Even Lugar, who I used to regard as a great Senator. Let’s see how any of the more sensible moderates are able to pivot after the elections, after they’ve built up the wall that cap and trade is an energy tax. And thank you Joe for finally saying out loud that 2013 is apparently still the middle of the recession for the GOP — perhaps that is an indicator of how long they plan to prolong the slump as soon as they can make the deficit the number one priority and cut off any stimulus money.

  11. Alan says:

    Summarizing this article: Republicans have found an effective way to frame their opposition to carbon taxes or cap and trade by calling them an energy tax. An effective counter-frame is to say that carbon taxes or cap and trade are taxes on pollution.

  12. Wit's End says:

    The Guardian has a version of the politics that indicates that from their view at least, President Obama has put energy legislation at “the top of his agenda.”

    It’s not Obama’s fault that he has an dysfunctional, lobbyist-infested government, and I get tired of seeing him take the blame for the insane intransigence of the oil and coal industry funded deniers in the legislature.

  13. What Sen. Snowe, her colleagues and even the President seem to miss is that whether or not we tax carbon, if we want to address climate change, we have to address the electricity grid. To reduce carbon emissions and integrate significant levels of renewable energy without compromising reliability, the climate bill must address our need for a reliable, efficient, secure and clean grid infrastructure. Clean, distributed generation, such as smart microgrids (, have not yet been a part of this discussion and should be. Microgrids create local jobs, promote energy independence, reduce polluting carbon emissions, and help us transition to an efficient, clean energy economy — making them the best approach for achieving our energy and environmental goals and an integral part of a comprehensive plan to address climate change. Whether the carbon tax is placed on many or a few, the bill should include provisions to help communities and states develop distributed generation systems.

  14. Richard Miller says:

    Dear CP Readers,

    The Tar Sands is one the most environmentally destructive project in the world. It takes about 3 barrels of water to extract one barrel of oil. Over 90% of this water, 400 million gallons per day, ends up as toxic waste dumped in massive pools that contain carcinogenic substances like cyanide. In addition, it involves the clear cutting of great sections of the Boreal forest. You can see the environmental damage in the trailer of a new documentary. See

    Prescending from the leak problem, the clear cutting of forests, and the toxic waste, Jim Hansen has argued that the Tar Sands must be stopped if we have a chance to stop catastrophic global warming. The extraction process of oil from the Tar Sands produces 2 to 3 times more carbon dioxide pollution than conventional oil.
    You can communicate directly to the State Department online at the following link clientsite/ keystonexl.nsf/ CommentForm?OpenFrameSet

    For the State Department website with info see here clientsite/ keystonexl.nsf?Open.

    Citizen letters really can make a difference, so please write. It can be a brief letter, even briefer than the following (Please do not copy this letter. If you want to use the ideas of this letter that is fine, but it is important that they do not receive identical letters):

    To Whom It May Concern,
    Climate scientists have made it quite clear that if we do not rapidly move off fossil fuels such that our economy is virtually decarbonized in 40 years we run unimaginable risks that include threatening global food and water security, the devastation of major cities and coastlines around the world (including Miami, New York, New Orleans, and Boston), and mass migrations of people that will most likely lead to conflict (as it has in the case of Darfur). The tar sands project is accelerating us into the climate catastrophe because extracting oil from the tar sands produces 2 to 3 times more carbon dioxide pollution than conventional oil and part of the process involves clear cutting of sections of the boreal forest. In this context, supporting the Tar Sands project by building a pipeline from the Canadian Tar Sands through the United States would be terribly destructive.

  15. klem says:

    I agree with this new energy tax. It will drive up the cost of fuel and since it will hurt poor people first it will take millions of their sorry cars off the road, freeing up space for me to drive. I don’t think poor people should be allowed to drive. This new tax will allow me to drive more while poor people can take the bus. I like this energy tax, bring it on!

    I can’t believe poor people voted for this guy. Losers!

  16. JIm Edelson says:

    I really hope that this bill passes, as long as it is not more destructive to existing Clean Air Act authority than beneficial in creating a price on carbon through the new cap. Count me skeptical at this time given that the only objective of the Republicans is to hope for failure of this Administration, and the horse-trading has only just begun.

    Meanwhile, slowly but methodically the EPA regulations are coming into their own and, barring a court order or Congressional preemption, will effectively control GHG pollution from large sources.

    From SolveClimate:

    “Some observers are even questioning Congress’s relevance as the Environmental Protection Agency gains momentum with its current measured approach to curbing heat-trapping gases.

    For instance, at least one nationwide law firm that advises major clients on the environmental front praises the Clean Air Act as a proven and effective tool for regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. “