Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 1, 2009

CLIMATE CHANGE BILL MAKES ITS MOVE IN THE SENATE.... After lengthy delays and watching the House already complete its work on the issue, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) finally unveiled legislation yesterday to address global warming. The good news, it's a fairly ambitious bill. The bad news is, the distance between yesterday and passage is long and arduous.

Kate Sheppard noticed, among other things, the fact that "cap and trade" seems to have fallen out of favor -- the label, not the policy.

[N]oticeably missing from both the bill and their rhetoric was any reference to cap and trade. Instead, they're calling it a "Global Warming Pollution Reduction and Investment" program -- and they're promoting the energy and national security benefits rather than the emissions reductions goals. [...]

The senators touted the bill's provisions to expand the use of natural gas and nuclear power, two major changes from the Waxman-Markey legislation passed by the House in June. While the House bill would also likely spur development of those energy sources, the Senate bill includes titles specifying how they would be expanded. The senators also stressed that the bill includes a good deal of support for the development of controversial "clean" coal technology.

"It recognizes that there is no one silver bullet that is going to solve this problem," said Kerry.

Their full bill, weighing in at 821 pages, closely mirrors the various leaked drafts that were circulating yesterday, and, in most respects, Waxman-Markey. It aims to reduce emissions 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, and will cover approximately 7,500 major emissions sources around the country.

Bradford Plumer does a nice job highlighting some of the specific differences between the Senate bill and the Waxman-Markey bill that passed in June. There were some fears that Boxer and Kerry might scale back the scope of the plan, in order to increase its chances of overcoming obstructionist tactics, but if anything, the Senate is slightly better than the House version.

So, does the bill have a realistic shot? It won't be easy. The first step for Boxer-Kerry will probably be the easiest: it's going to pass the Environment and Public Works Committee, perhaps by the end of the month. From there, however, it will be subjected to scrutiny in at least four other Senate committees, each of which will change the bill, probably for the worse. Some of the entirely worthwhile measures introduced yesterday are not at all likely to withstand the process.

But at least the process is getting underway. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) suggested the bill may pass before December's climate treaty negotiations -- wishful thinking, to be sure -- even as the chamber weighs health care reform.

The calendar notwithstanding, it's a fight worth watching closely. As Brian Beutler noted this week, Boxer-Kerry, when eventually reconciled with Waxman-Markey, will "become the most significant piece of energy legislation in the nation's history."

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (11)

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Somehow I just don't think the climate in DC is ready for this bill.

I suggest we back off from "saving the world" and other lofty hopes and stick to nitty gritty energy savings.

Most limbaugnans can't grasp global implications, but they can when it comes to their own utility bills.

The earth's climate is a complex beast and while reducing C02 and CH4 gases is important, humans spew far nastier toxins into the atmosphere.

For that matter, so do climate idiots. The toxic outgassing in DC these days is bound to stall any real climate bills.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on October 1, 2009 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

Another Democratic debacle coming up.

Posted by: par4 on October 1, 2009 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

i see it as the guilty consciences of the Dim party opening up another front in the war of the human species versus the corporations.

odd world.

Posted by: neill on October 1, 2009 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

I'm pleased that the Republicans are so focused on killing Healthcare reform that other important legislation like this is largely slipping under the mainstream radar (so far). Limbaugh's minions might be kept up to date, but the Republican noise machine appears to have an achilles heel in that they can only feign maximum outrage at one thing at a time. I guess that's the upside to the health care debate dragging on, it drowns out the media messaging of republicans on other fronts.

Posted by: oh well on October 1, 2009 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

"The senators touted the bill's provisions to expand the use of natural gas and nuclear power,..."

Big mistake! This is further evidence of Democrats giving into big media and the right.

Nuclear power especially is a horrible idea. First, investors won't go near nuclear power without enormous taxpayer subsidies for the construction and operation of facilities and for the storage of nuclear waste (more corporate giveaways). Plus investors expect taxpayer guarantees in the event of a nuclear tragedy (while simultaneously promising us that nuclear power is safe).

In short, nuclear power is corporate welfare that the right and left both condone. Wind and solar power is here, they work, and they're significantly safer and cheaper. And they don't have the added disadvantage of encouraging our enemies to develop their own nuclear programs under the guise of peaceful energy.

Tell your senators and congressman that not a dime of taxpayer money should go to subsidizing or guaranteeing nuclear power. Without taxpayer support, nuclear power will die the death it deserves.

Posted by: Chris on October 1, 2009 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Did anyone else see George Will's latest steaming pile about climate change? It was full of the usual fallacies and straw men - that AGW believers say there aren't *any* dissenters, that it's a big deal that warming has leveled off in the past decade (which may not be true anyway, and ice continues to melt) - despite that anyone familiar with the stock market knows that long-term trends can and do come with variability. He is a defiantly pig-headed, juvenile Tory grump.

Posted by: N e i l B on October 1, 2009 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

GE has gotta be laughing its butt off thinking about all the money made by people buying into global warming.

Another large corporation pretending to be into a liberal idea because they "care." Global warming sheeple your bus is leaving.

Posted by: teehee on October 1, 2009 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

They eschew cap&trade for good reason: no one understands it and the Republicans have suceeded in convincing lots of people that whatever it is, it is bad.

Posted by: Poll Guy on October 1, 2009 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

The Yamal Tree Affair.

It's an example of the presence of biased data selection by AGW proponents, and the unusual influence of a single data series. The article that I linked is by a proponent of AGW, and is a partial defense of the data selection procedure. You can follow the hot links to the criticism. If this had been clinical science, data selection would have to have been conducted by someone "blinded" to the theoretical implications of each data series.

An equally important question: Why did it take so long to publish the complete data? The selected data and the "hockey stick" interpretation have been public for a long time.

The Waxman-Markey bill has an unknown cost and practically no good effect. The cost of complying with the cap (investments in new technology) will be about $1700 per year per family in the US, eventually rising higher than that, though very little of the cost will be paid to the government. It's a third-rate bill, but, as they say, that's better than fourth-rate, and the perfect may be the enemy of improvement in this case. I think it's probably a small step in the right direction, and it can be revised before the costs really start to bite on the economy. People who praise it greatly are idiots or blatant propagandists.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on October 1, 2009 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

It sounds like something we need right now, jobs and clean energy.

Posted by: chris on October 1, 2009 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

John Kerry changed the name of the Cap and Tax bill due to the profoundly negative effect the new term was creating.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iT-0No2yFXcfgIt4YInrsQM5E5FAD9B1SODG0

He has changed it to "pollution reduction and investment," or "PRI." So, I think it's time we rebranded his cute phrase. I have some ideas:

Proven to Reduce Investment

Progressive Reduction of Investment

Progressive Raid on Investment

Progressive's Rape of Industrialism

Provision for a Reduction in Investment

I hope that gets everyone started. Have fun!

Posted by: djamminh on October 1, 2009 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK
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