The WonkLine: June 8, 2009

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We really can’t say we’re the Saudi Arabia of coal anymore,” says Brenda Pierce, head of the USGS team that found the estimates of a 240-year supply of coal in the United States to be grossly inflated, as “relatively little of it can be profitably extracted.”

The Congressional Budget Office has released its cost estimate of the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), finding that it would reduce budget deficits “about $24 billion over the 2010-2019 period.”

In a mock hearing today, Republican senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John McCain (R-AZ), and Jim Bunning (R-KY) “will propose building 100 new nuclear power plants over the next 20 years” instead of a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

National Security

The pro-American alliance appears to have won a majority in parliamentary elections in Lebanon, where pre-election polls had shown that Hezbollah and its allies were poised to win. The victory has been seen as confirmation that the Obama administration’s policy of engagement is achieving results.

In an interview on ABC’s This Week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the U.S. is considering reinstating North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism in addition to further sanctions on the country.

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for “maximum understanding” with Washington on peace issues, Israeli officials said that he has no intention of Israel freezing all settlement growth.

Health Care

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), who chairs the Budget Committee and is a member of the Finance Committee, is trying to build a compromise around the public option by “devising new ‘cooperatives’ that would operate with low overhead costs but not necessarily have the power to set doctor fees.”

“A Veterans Affairs study found that people treated by doctors being compensated under pay-for-performance arrangements weren’t short-changed and received high-quality care.”

E.J. Dionne and this article in the LA. Times explain why the insurance industry is so eager to ‘sit at the table’ of health reform. “Private health insurance faces a bleak future if the proposal they champion most vigorously — a requirement that everyone buy medical coverage — is not adopted,” the LA Times explains.


Over the weekend, three Indiana state funds asked the U.S. Supreme Court “to delay a deal to sell most of Chrysler’s assets to Fiat, their last hope of challenging the transaction after two lower courts approved it.”

Roll Call reports that “FedEx is expected to launch a multimillion-dollar lobbying offensive as early as Tuesday to thwart legislation that would put the Memphis, Tenn.-based package delivery company under the same labor laws as its main competitor,” UPS.

David Leonhardt at Economix notes that the “pay gap between college graduates and everyone else…reached a record high last year. Four-year-college graduates made 54 percent more, on average, than people who attended college but did not graduate.”