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Murkowskis Big Oil Bailout Bombs

NRDC’s Beinecke: The Senate Votes in Favor of Science, Oil Savings, and Climate Action

UPDATE: The Hill has posted, “Analysis: GOP backing for Murkowski EPA plan doesn’t sink climate bill,” excerpted at the end.

Today the Senate rejected Senator Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) big oil bail out resolution that would have blocked new fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for vehicles. The motion to proceed to her resolution, S.J. Res. 26, failed on a vote of 47–53.

It failed on a mostly party line vote, with all Republicans voting with big oil, and all but six Democrats voting against it. The Democrats who voted to block efforts to save oil and reduce pollution were:

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

It was particularly disappointing that Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) voted for the big oil bail out bill. Both have cosponsored bills to reduce global warming pollution, but bowed to pressure from big oil and the Senate Republican leadership. Incredibly, Senator Collins published an op-ed this morning that said

We must “¦reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Yet the resolution would have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency from establishing fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards for vehicles. EPA predicted that if the resolution became law, then oil use would have grown by nearly one billion barrels due to less efficient cars and trucks. Senator Reid said that this would provide an additional $47 billion to oil companies.

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Contrast her hypocrisy with the leadership demonstrated by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) who is trying to smooth West Virginia’s transition to a sustainable 21st economy:

This Resolution, I fear, would have a sweeping impact. It could preclude action to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil. It could delay critical investments in clean coal technologies. That’s not a national energy strategy I can or want to support. My vote today against the Murkowski Resolution is a vote for coal’s future and my intention to continue to have a seat at the table and a voice for West Virginia in how we legislate our energy future.

The tragic death of 29 miners at the Massey mine, and the growing calamity from the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico are deadly reminders of the cost of the United States’ dependence on coal and oil. The Senate should promptly enact reforms that would increase oil and coal production safeguards, reduce oil use, and cut oil and coal pollution.

Now is the time for action. Some senators who voted for Senator Murkowski’s resolution indictated that they agree, but that they want Congress, and not EPA, to adopt measures to reduce oil consumption and pollution. Now it is incumbent upon them to join Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), John Kerry (D-MA), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Harry Reid (D-NV) Byrd, and others to develop and pass comprehensive clean energy legislation that provides safeguards for oil production, reduces oil use, and cuts global warming pollution from oil and coal, and invests in renewable energy, efficiency, and clean energy manufacturing. Otherwise, their rhetoric today will be as empty as the blighted beaches of the Gulf coast.

— CAP’s Dan Weiss

JR: And here is The Hill quoting “a snap analysis by the consulting firm ClearView Energy Partners [which] says the unified GOP vote isn’t necessarily a bad sign for climate legislation that may come to the floor this year”:

No Republicans voted against the resolution. This does not mean, however, that that all 41 Republicans will vote against a climate bill that could deliver substantial economic benefits to their states. Although American Power Act architect Lindsey Graham (R-SC) remains opposed to the legislation he helped craft, we reiterate that, with (a) a pro-drilling, pro-safety compromise that provides political “containment” of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill; and (b) explicit support by coal state Democrats, Senator Graham and other green-leaning Republicans may find themselves with the opportunity to negotiate even greater provisions on behalf of their constituents in return for offering the decisive votes in support of passage (60 Senate votes would be required).

And here is NRDC chief Francis Beinecke from her blog:

Today the Senate made the smart choice of voting down Senator Murkowski’s resolution to undermine the EPA’s authority to reduce global warming pollution. Now we can move to the real work at hand: passing clean energy and climate legislation.

Murkowski’s resolution was a dangerous distraction from the start, an anti-science folly that would have reversed the widely supported Obama Administration clean car measures that will save Americans 19 billion gallons of gasoline. To increase demand for gasoline even as oil pours into the Gulf of Mexico is unfathomable.

Rather than offer solutions, Murkowski seemed to want to turn America’s back on the pressing challenges of oil dependence, climate change, and hazardous pollution.

The Senate refused to step backward. It moved instead toward a cleaner future.

Today the Senate voted for science. Although Senator Murkowski claimed she doesn’t dispute climate science, the very nature of her resolution asked the Senate to nullify the EPA’s findings, as well as the overwhelming consensus of the National Academy of Sciences and numerous other sources. Senators chose instead to stand by the scientific evidence.

Today the Senate voted for the Clean Air Act. Rather than letting polluters police their own global warming pollution, the Senate affirmed that the same successful EPA model that reduced lead, acid rain, and ozone-depleting chemicals should be used for carbon emissions as well.

Today the Senate voted for climate action. It confirmed that America must begin reducing the dangerous pollution that causes global warming.

This is good start. Now we must take the next step: passing clean energy and climate legislation.

And we will need all hands on deck to get it done. I will be keeping my eye on those Senators, including Senator Collins and Senator Rockefeller, who voted for this resolution even while saying they accept the science and the urgent need for action. The burden is now on them to demonstrate their seriousness, and I hope to see them roll up their sleeves and get to work building a 60-vote majority for passing comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this summer.

This bill has become a top priority legislative priority. Last week, President Obama made his strongest case yet for enacting a comprehensive bill. He said, “I will continue to make the case for a clean energy future wherever and whenever I can, and I will work with anyone from either party to get this done. But we will get this done.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, meanwhile, urged the Senate Chairmen to focus on comprehensive clean energy legislation so they can bring a bill to the floor during the July work period.

There are several clean energy and climate proposals circulating in the Senate right now. Just yesterday, Senator Lugar introduced a bill that, while it has some problematic elements, has many strong pieces that could be integrated into a comprehensive bill. I hope Senators use the next few weeks to compile the best components of all the proposals.

But above all else, the comprehensive bill must include a cap on carbon emission — the pollution that most Senators agreed today was a hazard that must be reduced.