What the Boxer-Lieberman-Warner bill debate tells us
No, 450 is not politically possible today.
Okay, that was clear before. But the debate over the Climate Security Act made it clear that it won’t be politically possible anytime soon, for two reasons:
- The vast majority of conservatives have not budged an inch on climate science even in the face of now overwhelming direct scientific observation and a much deeper and broader scientific understanding of the dangerous impact of unrestricted human greenhouse gas emissions on the climate.
- Equally important, conservatives now have a very potent political issue to beat back advocates of an economy-wide cap-and-trade system — high gasoline prices. And gasoline prices are probably going to be much higher over the next few years (see “Must read CIBC report: $7 per gallon gas by 2010“). That is one reason I would leave transportation out of an economy-wide cap-and-trade, but that will be the subject of another post.
I live-blogged the debate at the time. Here are the highlights — or, rather, lowlights — from the GOP side that make clear just how far conservatives are from understanding climate reality:
- Sen. Inhofe (R-Okla.) lead the Senate opposition to the bill, claiming, “The vast majority of scientists do not believe that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are a major contributor to climate change,” and called it, “The largest tax increase in the history of America.”
- Sen. Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said he opposed the bill because Wyoming family budgets would lose $1,000 to $3,000 in the next 13 years.
- Sen. Grassley (R-Iowa) was the first designated compassionate conservative, claiming, “Households with limited incomes will be affected the most by this bill,” and “This would raise energy bills for the poorest fifth of Americans by $750 to $1,000 a year.”
[If only conservatives cared about the poorest Americans on the days they weren’t filibustering climate legislation.]
- Sen. Enzi (R-Wyo.) said, “I am an environmentalist,” but opposed the bill and urged people to “visualize” their electricity bill being 50 percent higher the first year the bill goes into effect.
- Sen. Cornyn (R-Texas) said the bill would add $8000 in additional energy costs on Texas households, and actually blamed Democrats in Congress for the recent spike in gasoline prices.
- Sen. Sessions (R-Ala.) said the bill was a “… complex and sneaky cap and trade tax system” that “will raise taxes, will raise substantially energy costs and gasoline prices, will cause worker layoffs and hurt our economy, and leave us less competitive in the world marketplace.” Thus, the bill is “just the opposite of what the American people (our dutiful citizens who send us here) would expect us to be doing.”
- Sen. Chambliss (R-Ga.) cited a University of Georgia study he claimed that showed temperatures have dropped in the last century, and said “This bill will attack citizens at the pump” and “increase job losses.”
- Sen. Bond (R-Mo.) said the bill would raise gasoline prices $1.40 a gallon by 2050, and warned that “if prices keep going up, we may not have a trucking industry,” and concluded confusingly, “We need to cut carbon, we don’t need to increase energy prices.” He asserted, “Nobody in their right mind” believes we can get half our power from wind and solar or drive a “fleet of golf carts.”
- Sen. Vitter (R-La.) warned that by 2030, gasoline prices would go up $0.41 to $1.01 a gallon.
- Sen. Cochran (R-Miss.) said the bill would be “especially harmful to lower-income families.”
- Sen. Thune (R-S.D.) said the bill “could bankrupt US air carriers” which have already been crippled by high oil prices, and argued it would add $5 to $10 billion to the U.S. aviation fuel bill.
- Sen. Kyl (R-Ariz.) said the bill means “people must turn off air-conditioning in the summer” and would hurt the bottom 20 percent of Americans, reducing their after-tax income by 3.3 percent.
[Another compassionate conservative — where were they all the last seven years?]
- Sen. Bennet (R-Utah) claimed the bill would more than double electricity prices in the first year and quoted a Californian scientist who apparently said, “We are moving to irrational panic on climate change.”
- Sen. Allard (R-Colo.) called the bill “cap and tax,” said bill proponents want to raise energy taxes, and proclaimed “from the reports that I’ve seen, I think it’s unclear as to what the long-range trend is as far as the temperature of the Earth is concerned.”
The purpose of this post is not to debunk such nonsense, yet again. Earlier parts of this long-running series make clear that the cost of (intelligent) action is low and the cost of inaction is incomprehensibly high.
No, the point here is that conservatives have decided to double down on their opposition to serious action on global warming. Sadly, between their lemming-like solidarity and their ability to demagogue the energy price and jobs issue — which may well lead to an even more watered-down climate bill next year — they probably have an exceedingly good chance of blocking the necessary action.