Monday, June 7, 2010

Separating Energy and Climate Legislation

Wondering what it means to go with an energy-only bill? You can expect the Bingaman proposal (from Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico) to focus mostly on providing for alternative energy sources, new nuclear power plants, and some research and development funding. As iterated by Majority Leader Reid (D-NV), it will also include some new language to address the oil leak in the Gulf like a lifting of the oil company liability cap and some reforms of the oversight and regulatory process.

What it won't have is a pricing collar on carbon, which is really desperately needed to address our country's contributions to global climate change. The conventional thinking is that we absolutely must reduce our emissions by about 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. That's not far away, and it doesn't take into consideration the likelihood that developing countries, like China and India, won't move until after we have.

It's certainly possible that the Kerry-Lieberman cap-and-trade proposal could meet the 60-vote threshold needed to be attached as an amendment if we could keep most Dems onboard (around ten are seen as possible or likely no votes) and count on environmentally-friendly Republicans to stick their necks out for a system their own party has decried as "cap-and-tax" during an election year, but somehow I imagine leadership would just include it in the bill if that were seen as a likelihood.

Assuming for a moment that Kerry-Lieberman fails, it's obviously preferable for the Senate to get the ball rolling on alternative energy sources than to do nothing right now, but it is certainly less than we need them to do.