Sanders’ Voices Concerns About Emerging Senate Legislation

Kate Sheppard reports that actual environmentalists in the Senate are feeling a bit ignored in the Kerry/Graham/Lieberman sweepstakes:

[Bernie] Sanders [D-VT] is particularly worried about a proposed provision that would nullify existing state programs to limit emissions. Vermont is among those states that have paved the way for national carbon regulations, and the bill would remove the ability of states to set tougher restrictions on carbon dioxide than those passed by the federal government. Sanders describes this as “a huge mistake,” writing that “we should definitely set a floor, but not a ceiling.” He also expresses reservations about new loan guarantees for nuclear power, expanded offshore drilling, and the bill’s likely giveaways to coal. “I do not want to see a global warming bill become an bonanza for the coal industry,” he writes. […]

Lieberman brushed off such criticisms last week, telling reporters, “In the end this will be one of those cases where everybody will be a little unhappy… But if they’re mostly happy that we’ve done something constructive, it will pass.” Maybe Lieberman’s right. But at the moment, the senators who should be the most enthusiastic cheerleaders for this effort are sitting disgruntled on the sidelines.

At this point, I think it’s hard to tell if left-wing opposition will amount to anything because we don’t yet really see what the bill looks like. For my part, I’m an advocate of falling in line “as the bill is viewed as an improvement on the status quo, however minor” but I think the genuine question here is whether the bill actually will be an improvement on the status quo. State-level emissions caps and EPA regulation are badly inadequate responses to the scale of the climate challenge but they themselves fall into the “better than nothing” category.


To give them up, you need to be talking about a bill that is in fact an improvement. The politics of this seem to be militating in favor of subsidizing renewables but also nuclear and also coal and also oil, which you can’t really all do simultaneously. The fact of the matter is that getting 60 Senate votes for a decent bill may just be impossible.