Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 22, 2010

LEFT WITH NO CHOICE, DEMS TO PUSH 'NARROW' ENERGY BILL.... The Senate Democratic leadership, looking at the pre-August schedule, has said the chamber would take up an energy bill next week. The question has long been what kind of energy bill it'd be, how comprehensive it'd be, and whether it'd be any good.

We got our answer this afternoon. It was a disheartening one.

After a meeting of Senate Democrats, party leaders on Thursday said they had abandoned hope of passing a comprehensive energy bill this summer and would pursue a more limited measure focused primarily on responding [to] the Gulf oil spill and including some tightening of energy efficiency standards.

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, a champion of comprehensive climate change legislation called the new goal "admittedly narrow."

At a news conference, the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, blamed Republicans for refusing to cooperate. "We don't have a single Republican to work with us," Mr. Reid said.

The "admittedly narrow" legislation won't be completely useless; it just won't do what we need it to do. The plan is to have this bill include new oil company regulations, cover spill liability issues, reinvest in the Land and Water Conservation Fund, put some money into manufacturing of natural gas vehicles, and create some jobs through Home Star (the program formally known as Cash for Caulkers).

The list of key provisions that aren't in this bill isn't short -- any kind of cap-and-trade, renewable energy standards, etc. -- but the leadership is convinced it just doesn't have a choice. "We know where we are," Reid told reporters. "We don't have the votes."

So, is that it? Is the congressional effort to combat global warming dead? Probably.

To be sure, leading Democrats tried to suggest otherwise. Reid told reporters, "This is not the only energy legislation we are going to do." Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who's shown tremendous leadership on this issue, said he still thinks it's "possible" to find a Republican willing to do the right thing, and that the narrow bill that will be considered next week "does not replace comprehensive energy legislation." In fact, Kerry said he spoke to President Obama this afternoon and he told the senator "point blank that he is committed to working in these next days at a more intensive pace together with Carol Browner and other members of the administration to help bring together the ability to find 60 votes for that comprehensive legislation."

But one can only put on a brave face for so long. With very little time, and unbreakable Republican obstructionism, the odds are probably close to zero. If the Senate were to vote on a comprehensive bill, it'd probably pass -- such a bill already passed the House last summer -- but the GOP simply will not allow such a vote.

Unless there's an unexpected breakthrough after August, the future of energy/climate legislation will a) depend on voters expanding the Democrats' congressional majorities this year, an exceedingly unlikely scenario; b) be put off for several years, at a minimum.

Steve Benen 4:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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Aw, it's only the fate of civilzation as we know it that hangs in the balance. Why rush? So what if we miss our chance to slip through the (perhaps already closed) window for averting global disaster? Way to go, Washington.

Posted by: biggerbox on July 22, 2010 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

And this is why we put off immigration reform?

Posted by: mcc on July 22, 2010 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Whatever happened to the threat of drastic EPA regulation if Congress refused to rein in greenhouse gas emissions? Since the Republicans are ignoring the issue, when's Obama going to step up?

Posted by: MCD on July 22, 2010 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Time to reform the filibuster.

And as for "what's Obama going to do" in a regulatory sense, that game's not even yet begun. He is doing what is prudent: give Congress time to act or not act, then regulate thereafter as the law allows. It's coming; oh, yes, it's coming.

Posted by: Daddy Love on July 22, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Well, look on the bright side - when China dominates the global clean energy market in a few years' time I'm sure they'll throw a few outsourcing jobs our way.

Posted by: katie on July 22, 2010 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

I read that China surpassed the US in total energy consumption just this month.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 22, 2010 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

I don't get it. The Republicans know that regulations and new technologies will cost money. That money will be spent on things and stuff. Those things will have to be built and serviced. The people who build and service those things will have to be hired and paid. They'll spend money that will stimulate the economy. Their employers will have to take out taxes. The taxes will lower the deficit.

Oh...and maybe, just maybe, the planet that "God" gave us to look after might be salvaged in the process.

Why aren't the TeaBaggers behind this?

Posted by: chrenson on July 22, 2010 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

There is another choice.

For once, the Senate Democrats can call the Republicans' bluff and force them to actually filibuster something, hour after hour, day after day, on live TV, in front of the American people -- instead of hiding behind mere empty threats of a filibuster.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 22, 2010 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

chrenson wrote: "I don't get it."

The fossil fuel corporations collectively rake in about ONE BILLION DOLLARS PER DAY IN PROFIT.

Every single DAY that they can obstruct and delay the urgently needed, rapid phaseout of their products -- another ONE BILLION DOLLARS IN PROFIT.

Get it?

It's not about "ideology".

It's not about "the economy".

It's not about "energy policy" or "climate policy".

It's about naked, reckless, ruthless GREED.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 22, 2010 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

chrenson what don't you get? The Republicans under Mitch McConnell are betting their careers and the economic well being of their constituents that if they destroy the economy they will win in November. They would rather rule an American wasteland than serve in a vibrant restored America.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 22, 2010 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK


Oh, I get it all right. Believe you me. I get it.

A guy who gets it.

Posted by: chrenson on July 22, 2010 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

At this point in time, the game shouldn't be about passing any legislation that's possible without a filibuster.

It should be about replacing republicans with Democrats in November.

That's going to be hard when the primary phrases used in articles about Democrats concern abandoning hope, limited measures and narrow goals.

I see the point in passing this bill, but there needs to be aggressive messaging that highlights the gross inadequacies and clearly identifies the GOP as the obstacle.

Posted by: bdop4 on July 22, 2010 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

Good point Katie. I can see China's economy flourishing because they're smart enough to adapt to reality. Here in the USA, not so much.

At least there will be a lot of jobs for Americans in the coming decades, in the form of 10 hour a day 7 days a week factory jobs in inhumane conditions.

And the GOP is fine with this, just as long as the democrats don't 'win', and about 2% of the world's population are rich beyond their wildest dreams. What a great world we live in.

Posted by: citizen_pain on July 22, 2010 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure you're being fair to the GOP. Try to see it from their point of view: Jesus will return before the water gets high enough, or the climate becomes extreme enough, to make much difference.

And in the interim, somebody has to finance those campaigns -- especially if the alternative is public (ptui!) financing.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on July 22, 2010 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Assuming we retain control of both the House and the Senate (wishful thinking, perhaps), comprehensive energy legislation is doable of Senate Dems would do what Senate Republicans would do if they were in the majority--change the rules to end or weaken the filibuster. If they take, for example, Senator Udall's filibuster reform proposal seriously, then we can get there. The question is...do Senate Dems have the proverbial balls?

Posted by: Chris on July 22, 2010 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a heck of a lot more approving of Harry Reid today than I was a year ago. But he's missing a golden opportunity here.

Keep the Senate in session from now to the end of August. And do not turn on the air conditioning until there's an up or down vote on cap and trade.

Yeah, maybe the filibuster would hold, although, on the principle that bullies are generally candy-a$$es, it would more likely collapse. But it would be worth it just to see Inhofe on camera, sweating in his purple polka dot shorts while he stoutly declares that the planet is getting colder.

Posted by: nicteis on July 22, 2010 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

Everything you need to know about global warming in 5 minutes:

Posted by: HotDam on July 22, 2010 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

If we had majority rule in the US Senate, we would have already passed a good climate bill. Instead, we have an archaic system of minority rules that takes precedence over climate action.

The next chance to change the Senate rules is on the first day of the next Congress when they pass the rules for their chambers. There has been some growth of support within the Senate to change these rules, with Barbara Mikulski recently signing on.

But they can’t do it alone and we need to start to raise a hue and cry about the unprecedented and irresponsible abuse of minority rights. The Senate system is based on a responsible use of these rights and that day has passed.

Want climate action? Support reform of the filibuster.

Posted by: Andy Olsen on July 22, 2010 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Renewable energy industries have to do what defense and aerospace does. Have factories in several different states, so that those states' Senators and Congressmen will support the industry regardless of their stances on energy and environmental issues.

Posted by: Jess on July 22, 2010 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

See how many votes there are in a lame duck session.

We've already seen republicans change their tune once they lost an election. Add the democrats who may be willing to "do the right thing" once they lose, and we might have enough votes for a decent bill.

Posted by: cr on July 22, 2010 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

Here is another approach to carbon capture and storage:


The end product is carbon powder.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on July 22, 2010 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

Katie: Well, look on the bright side - when China dominates the global clean energy market in a few years' time I'm sure they'll throw a few outsourcing jobs our way.

China is expanding all energy production: solar, oil, gas, coal, nuclear, wind, and biomass. Their concern with CO2 accumulation is slight, as they are basically betting that eventually their fossil fuel consumption will decline -- decades hence.

That's a policy that most Republicans would rally around.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on July 22, 2010 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

Let the EPA regulate greenhouse gases without Congressional input.

Posted by: Patrick on July 22, 2010 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

Reid to Jesus: "Sorry Jesus, but we don't have a single devil willing to work with us on entering the gates of heaven".

What's it gonna take for you to fix the damned senate. The spirit for which these arcane rules were created no longer exists and are being abused on a regular basis in such a way as to make the senate unconstitutional. When will the VP ever have to worry about breaking a tie vote when everything is obstructed by a republican filibuster.

Do you realize how much further along toward recovery we'd be right now but for this abused filibuster rule. Eradicate the filibuster or limit its use so our country can function by majority rule again...the way it was intended. FIX THE DAMNED SENATE.

Posted by: bjobotts on July 22, 2010 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

Jess: Have factories in several different states, so that those states' Senators and Congressmen will support the industry regardless of their stances on energy and environmental issues.

They do that already. Do you think that they don't?

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on July 22, 2010 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

NO - the future of climate legislation is NOT a comprehensive bill. We will need a multi front strategy...Home star, efficiency, WRCI, RGGI, national RES, etc. A carbon price can come later in the decade. Much we can do.

I wish it were otherwise, though, no doubt. A sad day.

Posted by: Jack B. Nimble on July 22, 2010 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on July 22, 2010 at 7:16 PM

And you're point?!?

Posted by: citizen_pain on July 22, 2010 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

Reading news like this makes me glad that the actuarial history of males in my family over six generations leaves me pretty certain I have somewhere between 15-20 years left. Thank goodness I didn't leave any poor innocent offspring to suffer from the "work" of these worthless scum.

So in about 100 years, when the bipedal planetary cancer and failed evolutionary experiment known as Homo Sap is gone, hopefully the earth will be able to regenerate itself. Looking at the news every day on this site, calling us the "intelligent species" is demonstrated ridiculous.

Is there another species on the planet that shits in its own nest like we do?

Posted by: TCinLA on July 23, 2010 at 1:50 AM | PERMALINK

All the talk of Lindsay Graham's courageous, principled bipartisanship being just a lot of hot air.

Posted by: bob h on July 23, 2010 at 6:28 AM | PERMALINK

There IS a simple solution: Reform the Senate, get rid of the filibuster and get government MOVING again.

50 votes should be a majority! Period. NO filibusters just as there are NO filibusters in the House. There's NOTHING in the Constitution that says the Senate has to be a block of cement in the path of any possible legislation!

No other country tolerates this kind of situation!

Posted by: Cugel on July 23, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry kids - Daddy ruined your future because he couldn't fight against the filibuster...

Sign the "Fix the Senate" Petition here:


Posted by: Ohioan on July 23, 2010 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, clickable link here.

Posted by: Ohioan on July 23, 2010 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK



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