John Kerry on the new senate climate bill

2010-05-13

in Canada, Economics, Law, Politics, The environment

Over on Grist, there is an article written by Senator John Kerry about the new climate legislation being introduced in the U.S. Senate. His message has a sobering but pragmatic tone:

A comprehensive climate bill written purely for you and me — true believers — can’t pass the Senate no matter how hard or passionately I fight on it. No, it’s got to be an effort that makes my colleagues — and that has to include Republicans so we can get to 60 — comfortable about the jobs we’re going to create and the protection for consumers and the national security benefits — and it has to address those pieces on their terms. The good news: I think we got that balance right.

It is hard to know whether he is right about that, and I felt similarly ambivalent about the previous Waxman-Markey climate bill. That said, Kerry’s argument does highlight the trade-off the frequently exists in policy-making between how well designed a policy is, to reach its objectives, and how well crafted it is from the perspective of political possibility. It’s a shame that what is necessary in the real world can be impossible in the political world, but that is a reality that must be incorporated into our strategies.

Given the series of blows against good climate policy recently, having some sort of legislative success in the United States could be very important. It could help drive Canada towards finally doing something about climate change, and it could help revive the moribund UN process internationally. Also, like many other weak pieces of domestic climate legislation passed before, it could always be strengthened after the fact.

For what it’s worth, here’s hoping the US manages to do something, if only so as to stop providing the rest of the world with such a convenient justification for doing nothing.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

. May 13, 2010 at 11:44 am

U.S. climate bill puts no pressure on Canada: Prentice
By Mike De Souza, Canwest News Service May 12, 2010

OTTAWA — A new U.S. Senate proposal to tackle energy and climate change, endorsed by President Barack Obama, isn’t going to immediately force the Harper government to unveil its own plan to tackle global warming pollution from industry, Environment Minister Jim Prentice said Wednesday.

“Our understanding is that it’s doubtful that it would pass the Senate, very quickly, and certainly we’ll continue to study it and determine how it fits with the path that we’ve been going down in pursuit of our Copenhagen (agreement) objectives,” Prentice said after the daily question period in the House of Commons.

The American Power Act, introduced Wednesday by Democratic Senator John Kerry and Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman consists of nearly 1,000 pages of new policies designed to reduce emissions that trap heat in the atmosphere, create millions of clean energy jobs, reduce dependence on foreign oil and transfer part of the new government revenues collected from polluters back to consumers and industry in the form of tax cuts and energy refunds.

. May 13, 2010 at 1:35 pm

The climate-change bill
Once more unto the breach
A new energy and climate bill appears in America’s Senate. Does it have a chance?

May 13th 2010 | WASHINGTON | From The Economist print edition

“KERRY-GRAHAM-LIEBERMAN”—it sounded so promising. One Democrat, one Republican and one independent (senators John, Lindsey and Joe) have been busily writing a new energy and climate bill taking in ideas from both sides of the partisan aisle. Alas, the unity was shattered last month when Mr Graham, the Republican, refused to come to the bill’s press launch, after hearing that the Senate would consider immigration first. Then the spill in the Gulf of Mexico fouled the waters: one of the bill’s key elements is an expansion of domestic offshore oil exploration. Mr Graham says the bill does not have the votes, though he may still vote for it. Messrs Lieberman and Kerry unveiled it nonetheless, on May 12th.

The new bill makes extensive changes to earlier versions, which have been marooned in the Senate for more than a year. They are mostly aimed at deferring the economic pain, and offering treats to woo Republicans who are wary of an enterprise that, along with health-care reform, has been one of Barack Obama’s most cherished goals. Two-thirds of the revenue raised by the proposed bill from the sale of carbon permits is to go to reducing electricity customers’ bills straight away. From 2026, that money will return to customers as cash.

On the supply side, power-generating utilities are to get a long phase-in period, with generous initial allowances to emit CO²; these taper away until 2030, when all emissions permits must be bought. Expansive nuclear-power and “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) provisions have been retained from earlier drafts of the bill. Near-zero-carbon nuclear power is popular with conservatives, while unproven CCS is meant to seduce the many coal states. In short, goodies all round.

. October 1, 2010 at 11:31 am

“During the energy debates of the last decade, Rouse advised his staff to push environmental priorities. But not too hard. He doesn’t lose focus on the main point: Develop legislation that can pass.

“He’s very green,” said Eric Washburn, who helped write the energy bill of 2002 as Daschle’s legislative director. “He’s someone who I think has deeply held views about these things, but he’s also someone who can temper them” to get the “best [outcome] the political system can deliver at that moment.”

Those characteristics could help the administration recover from a stinging failure in the Senate to pass a climate bill that sought to cap national emissions. The aspirations reached too far, and soured needed support from conservative Democrats and every Republican.

“I think Pete’s going to be very good at analyzing the political landscape and helping the Obama administration,” said Washburn, who now works at BlueWater Strategies LLC. “That’s going to help [Obama] calibrate this in a way that will help them figure out a way forward, probably more gingerly than this Congress, this congressional leadership, tried to do.” ‘

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