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October 11, 2009

BIPARTISAN CAP AND TRADE?.... After some lengthy delays, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) unveiled legislation about two weeks ago to address global warming. After watching the House pass its cap-and-trade bill in June, Kerry and Boxer were finally getting the Senate in the game, presenting a fairly ambitious, progressive piece of legislation.

At the Capitol Hill event to unveil the bill, nine senators were on hand to show their support. None of the nine was Republican. It suggested that we'd see yet another bitter, partisan fight about one of the nation's (and the world's) most pressing issues.

It's why this New York Times op-ed is a very encouraging sign.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the prospect of Congress passing a comprehensive climate change bill soon is rapidly approaching zero. The divisions in our country on how to deal with climate change are deep. Many Democrats insist on tough new standards for curtailing the carbon emissions that cause global warming. Many Republicans remain concerned about the cost to Americans relative to the environmental benefit and are adamant about breaking our addiction to foreign sources of oil.

However, we refuse to accept the argument that the United States cannot lead the world in addressing global climate change. We are also convinced that we have found both 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.

Our partnership represents a fresh attempt to find consensus that adheres to our core principles and leads to both a climate change solution and energy independence. It begins now, not months from now -- with a road to 60 votes in the Senate.

The piece was written by Kerry and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a conservative Republican from South Carolina. After acknowledging their differences, the two wrote, "[W]e speak with one voice in saying that the best way to make America stronger is to work together to address an urgent crisis facing the world."

A Politico piece noted, "Graham's support is a major win for climate supporters, who are seeking Republican support for climate legislation." Joe Romm labeled this a "breakthrough."

Now, keep in mind, Kerry seems to have accepted quite a few concessions to secure the conservative South Carolinian's support. Their bipartisan bill uses "a market-based system" (cap and trade) as part of their "aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that cause climate change." On the other hand, their initiative also proposes additional drilling, more nuclear investment, and new incentives for companies that "develop carbon capture and sequestration technology" (i.e., "clean coal").

That said, it seemed extremely unlikely that, less than two weeks after Kerry and Boxer presented their bill, Kerry and Lindsey Graham would have a joint op-ed in the New York Times on energy policy reform. Three weeks ago, the odds of the Senate passing bill an energy bill were "next to nothing. As of 11 days ago, the odds were "better, but still a long shot."

And this morning, as Romm noted, "The odds of a Senate climate bill just jumped through the roof. Now the Senate needs to get off its butt and get this done."

Time is of the essence. If the basic framework of a deal can be locked down over the next six or seven weeks, the administration won't have to go to Copenhagen empty handed.

Steve Benen 11:05 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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It would be interesting to know if something's finally given them the signal that's set them in motion; what sort of letters they're reading, how the mood has changed in their constituencies. More and more this past week, it seems as if the grey eminences of the G.O.P are beginning to speak. As to whether they're just trying to do legislative damage control for their friends out in the lobby, or whether the fact-based wing of the Republican party has truly begun to make a stand, I don't yet feel I know.

Posted by: sleepy_commentator on October 11, 2009 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

It suggested that we'd see yet another bitter, partisan fight about one of the nation's (and the world's) most pressing issues.

Interesting viewpoint, but maybe not the "most pressing:"


Posted by: Pully Bulpit on October 11, 2009 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

I know cap and trade is a start. But let's face it. It's utter bullshit. If you were suffering the effects of mercury poisoning you wouldn't find a way to move the mercury around. You'd cut it off completely.
Enacting legislation to protect the polluters who are killing life on this planet is a juvenile answer to a complex problem.

Posted by: Gandalf on October 11, 2009 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

YEGADS...even the NYT uses the term "climate change" get on board! As a blogger over at CROOKS and LIARS mentioned (albeit at the very bottom of the post and certainly NOT in the headline)...folks should "walk away from the computer" (and I might add tv/radio/etc) from time to time in order for perspective to be restored to the realities of life and the complicated nature of decisions that face us all. Our MEDIA has completely left behind the mission of bringing meaningful facts and information to the public that needs it so badly to be a viable part of this "AMERICAN EXPERIMENT"! He was right to say that media exists to "SELL SOAP"...and, I'll admit at that they do very well...which says much about US, doesn't it?

Posted by: Dancer on October 11, 2009 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

the black humor in these fuckin' idiots not facing the truth about climate change doesn't relieve the black despair of what will happen after we are long gone -- to our grandchildren and their children...

the bbc has a story out that basically indicates these shit-fer-brains "statesmen" are giving a manicure to a corpse...


Posted by: neill on October 11, 2009 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Cap and trade is basically a stop gap measure and does nothing to fundamentally shift the energy paradigm.

We need to possibly consider a distant future when a meteor or a comet strikes the earth, blasting our atmosphere into the blackness of space. What if the fossil fuels we are so rapidly burning up could be used to "re-generate" the atmosphere?

Will our descendants damn us for being so fool-hardy? Or will they thank us for having the for-sight to adopt a slew of alternate energy sources that slowed the consumption, and consequent depletion of fossil-fuels?

I know my scenario is far-fetched, but so are the chances that legislators will do the right thing when it comes to sustainable energy. Most humans simply do not have the capability of looking far into the future.

But if we are to have a future, it is up to some of us to live as if we already are 50 years into the future, otherwise how do we get there?

It's called vision. Cap and trade is not very visionary.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on October 11, 2009 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

If the basic framework of a deal can be locked down over the next six or seven weeks, the administration won't have to go to Copenhagen empty handed.

Not empty-handed, just carrying a load of shit. I'll ask again: what is the point of having a Senate majority if all the Dems are going to do is beg the Republicans for their support?

Posted by: DocAmazing on October 11, 2009 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Using terms like "clean coal" when there is no such thing, is another way the liars we voted into office soft-soap something to sell to the public and the public buys it.

Posted by: Schtick on October 11, 2009 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Lest we wander down a lousy path already trodden in mapping out our energy future, we might want to have a look at some who've blazed the solar trail already. And I heartily concur that cap-and-trade is worse than BS, for it provides the illusion of progress with what is in reality a mere shell game.

Posted by: Tom Blees on October 11, 2009 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

Am I the only one who watching the health care 'debate' unfold ? Sending Obama to "Copenhagen empty handed" will be goal number one. Number two will be watering it down enough to make sure the polluters can still turn huge profits.

Posted by: Scottw714 on October 11, 2009 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Here's what "bipartisan cooperation" between corporate-funded Democrats and corporate-funded Republicans gets you:

Hundreds of billions of dollars in handouts to the nuclear, coal and oil industries.

I guess that squandering a trillion dollars or so of taxpayer money on enriching the people who are causing the problem is just the price we have to pay for legislation whose goals don’t come anywhere near reducing emissions enough, fast enough, to avoid the worst consequences of anthropogenic global warming.

Sorry, but when John Kerry starts talking about making the USA the “Saudi Arabia of clean coal” and gutting the already inadequate safety standards for nuclear power plants because they are “cumbersome” to the industry, I want to vomit.

We’re being taken.

Just as "bipartisan" health care "reform" legislation is about protecting the profits of the insurance corporations against the American people, and the universal nonprofit public health insurance system that the American people want, need and deserve, this "bipartisan" climate legislation is about protecting the mega-polluting profiteers in the nuclear and fossil fuel industries from EPA regulation and competition from the inexorable advance of clean, renewable, distributed electricity generation from wind, solar and biomass.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 11, 2009 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Tom Blees wrote: "we might want to have a look at some who've blazed the solar trail already."

Yeah, sure.

Why do pro-nuclear zealots always point to the solar energy industry in Germany -- which has but a miniscule fraction of the vast, widely distributed solar energy resources of the USA, which are sufficient to produce as much electricity as the entire country consumes from concentrating solar thermal power plants on less than 5 percent of its desert lands -- as an example of why the USA should not invest in solar?

And why do pro-nuclear zealots always point to France -- which operates far fewer nuclear power plants, and produces far less electricity from nuclear power, than the USA already does -- as an example of why the USA should spend trillions of dollars of taxpayer money to triple the number of nuclear power plants in the country?

I guess it just takes that kind of muddle-headedness to be a pro-nuclear zealot.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 11, 2009 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Here's more evidence on the solar/cosmic ray mechanism:


You can go from this "non-peer-reviewed" web page to the "peer-reviewed" original report.

SecularAnimist: I want to vomit.

I report on developments in alternative energy at least a few times per week. The long-term prospects are very good. But we have to get from here to there. I also link from time to time to new nuclear power technologies that are under development and the newer technologies are also very good -- not to mention that the US has more deaths per MWHour from other sources than nuclear.
There is also progress on "clean coal" (especially in China: http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/23541/?a=f .) Obama supported clean coal in the 2008 election, FWIW, and he also supported "safe" nuclear power.

In Copenhagen, attendees at the Climate Change conference will be able to attend a conference of global warming sceptics, i.e. presentations of evidence that the AGW proponents are unaware of or in denial of:http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=4052
The "trial" advocated by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will begin.

I am in favor of developing every energy resource: no one knows now which will be cheapest 20 years from now, but that time will come and those here at that time will appreciate us providing many alternatives and plentiful energy.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on October 11, 2009 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Every once in awhile, Lindsey shows his reasonable streak. If more republicans were like him, we would actually have a principled opposition. His vote for Sotomayor was a very good move. I wish he would see the light for healthcare reform.

Posted by: Patrick on October 11, 2009 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone who thinks that Graham votes for that bill regardless of what is in it in the end is a fool. This is just a replay of Grasley.

Posted by: Napoleon on October 11, 2009 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

I think it would be worthwhile for us all to keep our eye on the basic theory and science of cap and trade when we're talking about it. It's a proposal that draws on findings in two fields: economics, which predicts the response of markets to costs, risks, and rewards; and ecology, which studies of the system dynamics of the global environment.

I think that this is important because having one political party that bases its objectives on rumor, ignorance, pseudoscience, fear, uncertainty, and doubt is more than enough.

If you were suffering the effects of mercury poisoning you wouldn't find a way to move the mercury around. You'd cut it off completely.

While this is somewhat true, and irrespective of any defense of cap and trade I may make, this is a rather weak analogy. Atmospheric carbon is something that also occurs naturally - even soot, or carbon black, the worst contribution of coal burning - and cap and trade is designed to restrict industrial contributions of atmospheric carbon, specifically because the current production is changing the environment into one less hospitable to human needs. It is not a pollution control measure. Mercury is one of those pollutants that causes harm in any concentration. Carbon emissions (disregarding co-released pollutants like sulfur) do not by themselves cause any direct harm to humans, and there is a point where 'less' is enough.

We need to possibly consider a distant future when a meteor or a comet strikes the earth, blasting our atmosphere into the blackness of space. What if the fossil fuels we are so rapidly burning up could be used to "re-generate" the atmosphere?

The atmosphere consists almost entirely of roughly four parts nitrogen to one part oxygen gases, whereas fossil fuels contain mainly carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Carbon dioxide in these quantities would create a hothouse catastrophe akin to Venus, and if significantly more of the atmosphere were oxygen, life on earth would be at the least poisoned, and global spontaneous combustion would probably occur, leading again to a carbon dioxide atmosphere. I do not know whether the fossil fuel reserves would be able to generate an atmosphere's worth of gasses at any rate, but it seems unlikely. Regardless, any impact which was able to remove or disperse the atmosphere would effectively destroy all life on the surface of the planet and kill the overwhelming majority of all humans.

Posted by: sleepy_commentator on October 11, 2009 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

MatthewRMarler wrote: "I report on developments in alternative energy at least a few times per week."

You regurgitate ExxonMobil-funded denialist propaganda (e.g. the cosmic ray BS) and coal industry-funded anti-renewables propaganda (e.g. the "clean coal" BS) in every comment you post here.

That's what you call "reporting on developments in alternative energy".

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 11, 2009 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

Gandalf wrote: "I know cap and trade is a start. But let's face it. It's utter bullshit. If you were suffering the effects of mercury poisoning you wouldn't find a way to move the mercury around."

As a matter of fact, cap and trade is exactly the approach that the EPA took to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, and it is regarded as pretty successful.

Which is not to say that I like cap-and-trade or think it will be as successful in reducing CO2 emissions as it was in reducing mercury emissions, but the example you give undermines your point rather than supporting it.

I'd be happy to leave out the "trade" part of cap-and-trade, and just implement a cap that would be aggressively lowered until CO2 emissions from electricity generation and transport were banned altogether.

But we can't have that -- we have to protect the financial interests of wealthy, powerful polluters.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 11, 2009 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist:(e.g. the cosmic ray BS)

What, You don't believe the peer-reviewed scientific literature?

Here is another optimistic review of biofuels:


and a repeat of a Chinese view:


Eventually you have to start considering all of the evidence.

As to ExxonMobil, would you refuse to purchase algenol biofuel just because it was funded by ExxonMobil? They are strong backers of J. Craig Venter's research in San Diego.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on October 11, 2009 at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK

Graham is a snake in the grass and a roadblock and his "joint announcement" with Kerry is a steaming pile. That Kerry would fall for this shit is a testament to his continuing naivety and utter uselessness as a force for anything except exalting the status quo.
That steaming pile simply won't work as offered, and it will only gain more stink as corpseorate $$$ is added to the mess.
Clean Coal?,,, don't make me gag.

Posted by: cwolf on October 12, 2009 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

Benen hit the nail on the head, though as a former official Democratic Party flak, he'll never admit it.

This Senate action is all about Obama. Kerry will cut off his left nut or whatever is needed to have anything Obama can take to Copenhagen. But, unlike the possibility on healthcare, there's no easy way to put a climate bill through the reconciliation process.

So, an already sold-out bill gets even more sold out.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on October 12, 2009 at 2:33 AM | PERMALINK

"carbon capture and sequestration technology" (i.e., "clean coal")."

The parenthetical definition is not accurate.

By far the most powerful and intriguing carbon sequestration technology is tree farming. Wood is a structure of captured atmospheric carbon. A tree is a solar powered carbon-capture engine.

As long as the wood is not burned the process of growing trees, harvesting them, and replanting and growing again can provide perpetual carbon capture with no net cost.

Posted by: wrb on October 12, 2009 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

This is the best and most surprising part of the proposal:

"Fourth, we cannot sacrifice another job to competitors overseas. China and India are among the many countries investing heavily in clean-energy technologies that will produce millions of jobs. There is no reason we should surrender our marketplace to countries that do not accept environmental standards. For this reason, we should consider a border tax on items produced in countries that avoid these standards. This is consistent with our obligations under the World Trade Organization and creates strong incentives for other countries to adopt tough environmental protections."

Posted by: wrb on October 12, 2009 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Cap and trade is not the answer to solve "climate change." Both conservatives and environmentalists actually agree that this bill will do little to affect a positive change on our environment. Further, it will undeniably raise energy costs, quite possibly out of reach of a majority of Americans. It will also costs Americans millions of jobs. This is ineffective legislation that we can not afford. Write Congress and tell them to reevaluate this legislation at http://tiny.cc/pxIgi.

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