David Herszenhorn at NYT:
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 on responding to the gulf oil spill and tightening 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.
Democrats said they would continue to pursue broader climate change legislation.
“This is not the only energy legislation we are going to do,” Mr. Reid said. “This is what we can do now.”
Supposedly it’s merely a scheduling move, aimed at pushing the C&T debate into the fall when the Senate calendar is less crowded.
Really, though? Democrats, who are already terrified of losing Congress, are going to surf into the midterms with an eleventh-hour push for a hugely expensive new bill related to … global warming? With the GOP already armed with ad-ready video of Obama talking about how it’ll make energy prices “skyrocket”? Radical prediction: Reid’s going to end up deciding in September that the schedule’s still a little too “crowded” to take this up.
Ronald Bailey at Reason:
Instead, according to Politico, the Democratic leadership will attempt to pass a more limited energy bill in the fall that will have:
…low-hanging-fruit provisions dealing with the oil spill, Home Star energy efficiency upgrades, incentives for the conversion of trucking fleet to natural gas and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The death of the expensive and pork-laden carbon rationing scheme is good news for now. However, it is widely expected that the Democrats will lose control of the House of Representatives and reduce their membership in the Senate in the upcoming mid-term elections. Some commentators fear that defeated Democrats who are no longer beholden to their constituents will use the lame duck session in December to ram through carbon rationing (and much else).
Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:
That hasn’t and won’t stop Reid and the White House from blaming Republican lawmakers. But this is one accusation to which Republicans should be glad to plead guilty. If Reid wants to accuse them of stopping another job-killing, tax-hiking, mammoth piece of legislation, I don’t think Republicans will mind.
Andrew Restuccia at The Washington Independent:
Just got a readout of what’s likely to be included in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) scaled-down energy bill. According to an environmentalist source with close ties to the discussions, the bill will likely include:
– An oil spill response title based on the bill passed by the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee and the bill lifting the liability cap for economic damages in the event of a spill passed by the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, both passed out of committee last month.
– A title on energy efficiency that will be based on the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act, which gives homeowners incentives to make their homes more efficient.
Significantly, the source says the bill might not include a renewable energy standard, which environmentalists and other groups have been pushing aggressively.
A spokesperson for Reid, Regan Lachapelle, declined to comment on the bill, saying more information will be available after a caucus lunch being held today on the issue.
More to come…
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.
Brad Plumer at The New Republic:
This would be a no-brainer energy bill that should easily get 60 votes. The oil-spill response provisions largely entail reforming the Interior Department and tightening regulations for rigs. The only controversial section is the bit about lifting the cap on liabilities for oil spills. (At the moment, oil companies have to pay to clean up their messes, but they’re only on the hook for the first $75 million in indirect damages.) Even Home Star, which I wrote about recently, picked up a number of Republican votes in the House.
Trouble is, this bill won’t do much to address climate change. It doesn’t have a renewable standard for electric utilities. There’s no cap on carbon emissions. There isn’t a broader suite of efficiency measures that could really start chipping away at all the energy bloat and waste in the economy. Democratic staffers say that most of those measures will have to be brought up in a separate bill, after the August recess. Although then we get into the question of whether there will even be time to consider the climate provisions. Possibly not.
And there’s another question: Is it a smart strategy to separate the oil-spill provisions from everything else? The thing about the spill-response legislation was that it was popular. Moderate Republicans were relatively nervous about opposing it—who wants to be seen as protecting BP? Including rig regulations in a broader energy/climate bill might have improved the chances of passing the whole thing. But what happens if the two are split apart? The odds of a climate bill plummet.