February 5, 2010
Whether carbon limits, clean energy, nukes, and drilling makes for good climate policy is, to put it lightly, a good question. But this week there’s little dispute that the politics got more interesting and perhaps more hopeful.
On Tuesday President Obama explained to a New Hampshire audience the gathering momentum in the Senate to cleave energy from the climate bill. “We may be able to separate these things out,” the president said. “It’s conceivable that that’s where the Senate ends up.” Later, recognizing the remarks could be misinterpreted, the White House said that Mr. Obama still favored a bill that combined measures to encourage jobs in clean energy with a trading mechanism for greenhouse gas emissions.
The next day South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican who’s absorbed some punishing political blows in his state for supporting climate action, was characteristically direct: “If the approach is to try to pass some half-assed energy bill and say that’s moving the ball down the road, forget it with me.”
Graham’s assessment is a rare display by a lawmaker who appears intent on becoming what former Interior Secretary Stewart L. Udall calls a “United States Senator.” Back when Udall was Interior Secretary, in the 1960s, the Senate was stocked with lawmakers who mixed personal ambition, the urgency of important issues, and good timing to make the hard decisions that served their states and the nation. Graham has taken a similar path, pursuing bipartisanship on climate and energy and simultaneously transforming himself into a national figure.
This week, Graham steeled the nerves of Senate Democrats and appeared to urge the President of the United States to stay on message. “It’s putting off to another Congress what really needs to be done comprehensively,” Graham told reporters in response to the president’s comments. “I don’t think you’ll ever have energy independence the way I want until you start dealing with carbon pollution and pricing carbon. The two are interconnected.”
Graham’s adventure, you recall, began last October when he and Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, co-authored a widely read and influential New York Times op-ed laying out a bipartisan formula to gain Senate approval of a new climate and energy bill. The major ingredients – most of which the President has publicly embraced in principle – include reducing carbon emissions, clean energy investments, public subsidies for nuclear power, carbon sequestration in the utility industry, and more offshore oil and gas drilling.
Weeks later Graham and Kerry were joined by Senator Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Independent, and the trio has set out ever since to write a comprehensive bill that simultaneously addresses climate change and the nation’s dirty and obsolete fossil fueled economy. On Wednesday, President Obama noted the trio’s work and urged the Democratic caucus to put a price on carbon emissions. “Don’t give up on that,” said the president.
This week, a United States senator from the Deep South signaled he was on board to help.
Also, 92 countries have publicly announced their intention to engage with the Copenhagen Accord, the agreement that sets out steps for reducing carbon emissions and financing the transition to the low carbon economy in developing nations. Nations that produce 80.5 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gases are now covered by the accord.
See our Energy Rebellion report for news on how the grassroots is taking action to accelerate the clean energy transition.
Talk to you next week, Keith Schneider