I knew as soon as I read the Op-Ed in the NY Times Sunday co-authored by South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham and John Kerry.
As Energy Smart Now concludes “Let us hope that that “legitimate bipartisan effort” emerges and is reality-based. If it does, again, this might well go down as the most important OPED to appear in an American newspaper in 2009 … and perhaps even longer.”
I am now convinced that the US will pass climate legislation in the Senate. The 60 votes will be there. How do I know? Well, aside from having my useful analysis of the Senate from the summer to move names around, I am certain that if Lindsey Graham supports the bill, John McCain will come along without too much kicking and screaming. They see energy issues very similarly. I already considered the 2 Maine Republican Senators to be good enough on this issue to support a Senate bill. This means the Democrats can survive losing 4 of their own flank in a Senate vote, since at least 4 Republicans are going to vote with the Democrats. Knowing the ability of the Senate leadership to count votes and the behind the scenes work of the Obama administration, there’s just too much room to work with now for this bill to not reach 60 votes for cloture.
And I actually think we could get to 60 without weakening the bill’s emissions target. The indications from Kerry and Graham were that the current framework of 20% below 2005 levels by 2020 didn’t move too fast.
“First, we agree that climate change is real and threatens our economy and national security. That is why we are advocating aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that cause climate change.”
Now there are going to things in here that a lot of activists, myself included won’t like. However upon first glance these current concessions are ones I can live with. More provisions for streamlining nuclear? Go ahead, have a field day, I’ve already written about why no nuclear plants are getting built. It’s not the permit process that’s the issue. The plants cost over $10 billion dollars these days when they’re projected to cost half. You can’t get around that.
Money for clean coal? Well thats nothing new from the House bill. Once again, sure lets throw some money away on clean coal. Will clean coal technology exist anytime soon? Nope. Is it a waste of money? Yep. Do I think it’s okay for us to bribe some Senators with money for technology that will not come to fruition in order to get them to agree to regulate the emissions of the coal industry? Yeah, I do.
Offshore oil drilling? Oh no! Except we already know that even if we drilled for more oil offshore, we wouldn’t get any for 10-15 years. Even when we did, it would be a very minimal amount each day. Am I willing to trade away the burning of a little bit of oil a decade from now so that we can reduce oil consumption by millions of barrels of oil a day sooner and invest in a new transportation system with plug-in and electric vehicles? Yeah, I am.
So, while I might not like some of the above, we aren’t giving much up since we know all these things don’t work anyways. It’s a landmark deal, and it’s in our favor.
Now what I’m not willing to trade on is the important things in the bill. The emissions target. The renewable electricity standard(which the energy and natural resources committee already screwed up). The investment in clean energy technologies. The energy efficiency standards and new building codes. The money being used to prevent international deforestation.
Activists need to fight for the important things to keep the bill from being weaker than it already is in those areas. We will get climate legislation. The difference in the quality of that legislation will be how many swing Senators can be pushed into supporting the framework Graham and Kerry lay out without demanding real concessions like I listed above.
That’s where we come in.