In the U.S. Senate, Climate Bill Dead for Now

Even though this year is on track to become the hottest on record worldwide, the U.S. Senate is postponing introduction of a comprehensive climate and energy bill until September, writes Reuters. Instead Senate majority leader Harry Reid will push forward a more narrowly-focused energy bill that will reconsider offshore oil drilling rules and promote energy efficiency. Some argue that delaying action on the bill effectively kills it because political pressures to vote against the bill will only grow more intense closer to the November election.

According to Reuters, Republicans have been “near unanimous in their opposition to climate change legislation, saying the bill would be little more than an energy tax that would imperil an economy struggling to recover from recession.”  To gain bipartisan support, a bill will need to be stripped of any rules capping carbon emissions or mandating power companies to generate renewable or clean energy, actions that could raise energy prices.

Failure to act on emissions could have wider impacts: The absence of a bill that imposes fees on carbon emissions may stymie efforts by utilities and industries to increase investment in clean energy technologies. Additionally, Reuters argues that not acting could negatively impact the U.S.’s ability to influence global climate change negotiations. No domestic agreement may mean less pressure on China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and other major developing-country polluters that have opposed mandatory global caps. (Still, according to Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), China may soon have more stringent carbon limits than the U.S. has in place. The country is also planning a new carbon trading market).

As an alternative plan, the Obama administration may be moving foward with regulating emissions through the E.P.A. under the Clean Air Act. The agency is already regulating emissions from cars and requires power plants to apply for permits to spew CO2. To ensure this regulatory approach remains an option, the administration is working to fend off legislation that will limit the E.P.A.’s ability to regulate GHGs. However, The New York Times’ Dot Earth blog writes that others argue the Obama administration is showing a lack of leadership on climate change and may continue to punt on the issue.

A new report from the World Resources Institute (WRI) says a national cap and trade system is needed to reduce GHG emissions by 17 percent by 2020, but E.P.A. regulation of emissions and state and local action can serve as stop-gap measures. The New York Time’s Green blog writes: The institute said that the E.P.A., invoking the Clean Air Act, and the Department of Transportation, using its regulatory power over fuel efficiency, could make major strides over the next decade in reducing carbon dioxide pollution.” Examples of innovative state and local planning on climate change (see earlier post) include King County’s Climate Adaptation Plan.

Read the article 

Also, check out Thomas Friedman’s op-ed outlining how a bipartisan case could be made for climate and energy legislation at the federal level.

Image credit: 2004 California Heat Wave / NASA Earth Observatory

4 thoughts on “In the U.S. Senate, Climate Bill Dead for Now

  1. Kristian 07/23/2010 / 4:52 pm

    The uninformed (and fairly liberal) tack that you have taken in approaching this subject is pretty appalling. How about looking at the effects that NOT having this bill passed has that are positive (and actually measureable)?

    Things like:

    Lower energy costs for consumers and businesses alike because of the avoidance of new fees, taxes and penalites that would be imposed on EVERY level of the economy…

    Increased ability of small scale landscape architects who are engaged in design build to keep operating their equipment and trucks without a new “carbon tax”.

    Just so you guys on Eye Street know, a lot of us out here in the rest of the country AREN’T eco-warrior, CFL-waving liberals.

    I love the ecosystem as much as any sane human being should… I spend LOTS of time outdoors, but I don’t let the eco-agenda taint my view of reality. Get with the program. Landscape Architecture doesn’t emanate from academia.

  2. Jim Murphy 07/25/2010 / 11:37 am

    I would not likely say, “uninformed”, as stated in the first comment but I will agree with the, “liberal tact” observation. Personally, I think that the advocates of any climate change bill proposed by congress via the academics know the truth more than they would like to let on. Over many, many, years, congress, has felt the need to have its heavy hand in seemingly every aspect of commerce, energy and innovation. That pertains to both sides of the aisle.

    Now, with the country being at one of its dire moments, 1.5 trillion dollars in deficits, 9.5 % unemployment (13%+ in some states) and a president informs his citizens that under “his plan”, their energy costs will go up “substantially”, there is despair over a climate change bill that will not pass in the near future. Why does it have to pass yesterday? Why would the Executive branch threaten to violate the constitution by by-passing congress and giving the Dept. of Energy the power of climate change policy. Why such a quick and drastic fix at an enormous cost of the consumer? Why was Cap and Trade not used to describe this bill in the article? Why of, all countries, was China used as a comparison to the US regarding energy? The choice of references were interesting as well. They don’t seem to be evenly spread over contrasting opinions.

    I remember growing up in my hometown. Our streets were lined with dogwood, sycamore and maple trees. Cool walk ways in summer made for pedestrian havens. Not any more. Liability issues, leaf pickup and tree care dropped on the lists of priorities. Main street was dead and oppressive for half of the year. It was not long before it was gone for good. Bureaucrats made made that decision. I would rather them not make any others.

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