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Breaking: Murkowski praises Kerry-Graham climate plan. The Washington Times writes, “Her remarks signal the potential for a major turn in the climate change debate in Congress.”

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"Breaking: Murkowski praises Kerry-Graham climate plan. The Washington Times writes, “Her remarks signal the potential for a major turn in the climate change debate in Congress.”"

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The climate train is leaving the station.  It is becoming increasingly likely Congress will pass a comprehensive energy bill that includes a shrinking cap and a rising carbon price (with a price collar).   Key swing Senators are moving away from obstructionism toward a bipartisan deal.  Those who stand on the sidelines not only risk ending up on the wrong side of history for this momentous bill, but they risk the more tangible benefits of sitting at the negotiating table.

The Washington Times reported today:

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, praised the climate change legislation outlined Sunday by GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democratic Sen. John Kerry…..

Her remarks signal the potential for a major turn in the climate change debate in Congress. She has been a leading opponent of the type of legislation that has been moving forward so far…..

“I’m hopeful their column will mark a shift in the climate debate,” Murkowski said at a hearing by the energy committee. “Instead of cutting emissions at any cost, we should be working on a policy that incorporates the best ideas of both parties, a policy that accounts for our near-term energy needs, limits costs and is flexible enough to work under different economic circumstances,” she said.

In the op-ed, the two Senators asserted they have developed “a framework for climate legislation to pass Congress and the blueprint for a clean-energy future that will revitalize our economy, protect current jobs and create new ones, safeguard our national security and reduce pollution.” The framework includes, among other things, more offshore drilling and incentives for nuclear power, neither of which should be deal breakers for progressives as I have explained.

Murkowski’s office has now put out a press release reiterating her statements:

Murkowski also noted that she hoped the framework for climate policy laid out by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., would mark a turning point in the climate debate….

Murkowski, the top Republican on the committee, supports addressing climate change in an economically safe and environmentally meaningful way.

Yesterday, I pointed out that Nate Silver’s “Probability of Yes” vote for Murkowski is 2.37%, putting her in the “Republican Hail Mary’s & No-Shots,” writing:

But based on this op-ed, and her earlier statements, I’m going to put her at 50%.  Assuming Graham and Kerry come up with a compromise that, say, McCain can support, how exactly will Murkowski oppose it?  On grounds that it was not a “good faith” effort to address climate change?

Silver himself has a column today “Can Offshore Drilling Save the Climate Bill?” on the subject.  I actually think his analysis focuses too much on the wrong element of the deal — the proposed nuclear provisions are probably more important for securing the 60 votes than the drilling provisions.  Indeed, you have no chance whatsoever of getting either Liebermann or Graham, let alone McCain and many others, without a strong nuclear title.  Here is his bottom line:

…So what does this get the Democrats? It gets them Linsday Graham’s vote, and possibly Lisa Murkowski’s. It takes Mark Begich from a leaner to a likely yes. It might encourage Mary Landrieu, and possibly George LeMieux of Florida, to look more sympathetically at the bill. Then there are a whole host of more remote possibilities: Isakson of Georgia, and perhaps Cochran and Wicker of Mississippi or Burr of North Carolina; none of those votes are likely, but they become more plausible with offshore drilling in place. Overall, it seems to be worth something like 2-4 votes at the margin.

I don’t think it gets you any of the “more remote possibilities.”

That would give the Kerry-Graham bill a fighting chance, especially if an additional vote or two — possibly John McCain’s — can also be picked up as a result of the nuclear energy compromise. Of course, that’s assuming that no liberals would rebel against the new provisions, but the opposition to both offshore drilling and nuclear energy seems to be fairly soft in the liberal caucus. I would not place money on the climate bill passing this year, but the odds would seem to be a lot better with the drilling compromise in place.

Again, I think he misses the point.  The nuclear provisions are probably more important.  Here, for instance, is a statement last month from the office of Senator Voinovich (R-OH):

As both Chairman and Ranking Member on the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee over the last eight years, Senator Voinovich has had oversight responsibility of the NRC, and has worked hard to ensure the NRC has the resources to fulfill their role in ensuring public safety.

Sen. Voinovich continues to believe that nuclear power is the only real alternative we have today to produce enough low-cost, reliable, and clean energy to remove harmful pollutants from the air, prevent the harmful effects of global climate change and keep good jobs from going overseas. At a time when we are struggling to regain our economic footing, Ohio’s manufacturing industry has an incredible opportunity when it comes to nuclear energy. Nuclear energy offers thousands of well-paying jobs in all stages of development and production.

The Kerry-Graham deal certainly puts his vote for the bill in the “gettable” column.  And as the bill becomes more genuinely bipartisan, then Senators like Lugar (R-IN) become gettable too.  I think the final bill will 5 or more Rs and 62 or more total votes.

Silver’s finally sentence “I would not place money on the climate bill passing this year” is a tad too coy.  I myself would not place money on the climate bill passing the Senate this year.  But I would place money on it passing by next year, and I’d be interested to know whether Silver would, too.

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11 Responses to Breaking: Murkowski praises Kerry-Graham climate plan. The Washington Times writes, “Her remarks signal the potential for a major turn in the climate change debate in Congress.”

  1. MarkB says:

    “It is becoming increasingly clear Congress will pass a comprehensive energy bill that includes a shrinking cap and a rising carbon price (with a price collar). ”

    While encouraging, I’m personally not eager to jump the gun on such declarations, since it seems to be simply based mainly on comments from key Republican politicians. Politicians often say one thing and do another. What makes you confident that they are sincere and committed to passing climate legislation?

    [JR: I know Kerry and I know what it means for Graham to have written that op-ed. I'd put the odds at 2-to-1 now, but that is not a sure thing. Let me fix one word above.]

  2. charlie says:

    Funny the Voinovich (who I have a lot of affection for) doesn’t know about the problems of nuclear from his time as Mayor of Cleveland. Two of the worse-run plants in the nation are there — Perry and Davis-Besse. Perry is safe but expensive, and Davis-Besse is just dangerous.

  3. Leif says:

    Collective the posts over the last few days calls for a “yippee” from me.
    It appears like the GOP is starting to figure out how to claim the bill as their own.
    ““I’m hopeful their column will mark a shift in the climate debate,” Murkowski said at a hearing by the energy committee. “Instead of cutting emissions at any cost, we should be working on a policy that incorporates the best ideas of both parties, a policy that accounts for our near-term energy needs, limits costs and is flexible enough to work under different economic circumstances,” she said.”
    I do not recall the left as ever saying that “we should limit emissions at any cost” or that there has not been a concerted effort to minimize costs to both business and people but hay, they need to get their digs in.
    The longest journey begins with a single step…

  4. Jim Bouldin says:

    From the NYT op-ed:
    “The United States should aim to become the Saudi Arabia of clean coal. For this reason, we need to provide new financial incentives for companies that develop carbon capture and sequestration technology.”

    Not to put a damper on things, but I do not like the sound of that one bit.

    [JR: That particular train left the station a long time ago -- try reading the House bill. In any case, I always urge people to distinguish between an aggressive RD&D effort, which is a certainty in the climate bill, and actual large-scale deployment, which is dependent upon the technology becoming practical and affordable, which is a long, long way from happening, if it ever does.]

  5. And this might also be a step toward the bipartisanship that Obama hoped to work for. Maybe the Republicans will no longer just be against everything – which makes them the miNOrity party.

  6. Her press release is full of the usual lies “will cost more” etc

  7. Rockfish says:

    Another good sign that “something” will happen, but I’m still leery of what that “something” might be.

  8. ShellyT says:

    Every evolution of the bill gets us closer and closer to “business as usual”. Who needs a bill for that?

    I don’t object to more nuclear plants. I would rather we build more of those than waste money on CCS and drilling offshore, which will be horribly expensive for those who are doing it and yield hardly anything in the end. Maybe they can turn those drilling platforms into fancy hotels after they’re done with them.

    [JR: 42% GHG drop by 2030, 83% by 2050 ain't BAU!]

  9. mike roddy says:

    I agree that offshore drilling and CCS may end up being relatively harmless, but watch out for the nuclear provisions, and for gas, too. The nuke industry has powerful friends in banking, industry, and DC. It will happen in a big way if the government again steps up to provide loan guarantees and meltdown insurance.

    We would then become just as married to nuclear as we are to coal. Already, you hear things like “wind and solar cannot provide baseload”, “renewables are expensive and impractical” etc. These are lies, but the nuclear industry is better connected, and will use momentum toward nuclear as a way to stall real renewable and clean technology.

    It should matter that nuclear is horribly expensive, uranium costs are up, and so on, but it doesn’t. If reality mattered, we wouldn’t still be building coal plants instead of tearing them down.

    Finally, watch out for natural gas power generation. It’s no coincidence that we’re suddenly reading articles in the mainstream press about all the new gas finds, better technologies, and lower prices. Reporters fawn over it because it “only” produces half the emissions of coal. This is another trap we need to be wary of. Either we get off CO2 or we don’t. Exxon and friends own the gas rigs and pipelines, too.

  10. mike roddy says:

    I agree that offshore drilling and CCS may end up being relatively harmless, but watch out for the nuclear provisions, and for gas, too. The nuke industry has powerful friends in banking, industry, and DC. It will happen in a big way if the government again steps up to provide loan guarantees and meltdown insurance.

    We would then become just as married to nuclear as we are to coal. Already, you hear things like “wind and solar cannot provide baseload”, “renewables are expensive and impractical” etc. These are lies, but the nuclear industry is better connected, and will use momentum toward nuclear as a way to stall real renewable and clean technology.

    It should matter that nuclear is horribly expensive, uranium costs are up, and so on, but it doesn’t. If reality mattered, we wouldn’t still be building coal plants instead of tearing them down.

    Finally, watch out for natural gas power generation. It’s no coincidence that we’re suddenly reading articles in the mainstream press about all the new gas finds, better technologies, and lower prices. Reporters fawn over it because it “only” produces half the emissions of coal. This is another trap we need to be wary of. Either we get off CO2 or we don’t. Exxon and friends own the gas rigs and pipelines, too.
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  11. Ric Merritt says:

    Mike Roddy (“either we get off CO2 or we don’t”), please lay off the false dichotomies. The last guy who said “either you’re with us or you’re against us” didn’t get much respect from me, or in the end, from almost anyone.

    Glib statements without numbers have no use except maybe as rhetoric, and that is counterproductive rhetoric.