Tick … tick … tick … The Senate now has about 30 working days before its August recess to decide how serious to get about dealing with greenhouse-gas emissions. By the end of this week, particularly after a confab Wednesday between President Barack Obama and top senators [Editor’s note: This meeting was indefinitely delayed], we should have a clearer picture of whether they’ll go wading pool on us — an energy-only bill — or take a deep dive and actually impose a cap on carbon emissions. Dina Fine Maron and Christa Marshall of ClimateWire give the state of play.
There’s a cap for that: Obama has the chance to make up for last week’s fuzzy Oval Office speech by taking a harder line on making energy companies and manufacturers pay for carbon emissions. That’s what The New York Times is pushing him to do:
Mr. Obama must stress, explicitly and emphatically, that a conventional energy bill will not do — and that attaching real costs to older, dirtier fuels now dumped free of charge into the atmosphere is the surest way to persuade American industry to develop cleaner fuels.
Derek Thompson, writing for The Atlantic, offers a primer on why carbon pricing matters:
When something is free, you tend to use more of it. It’s true for buffets and open bars, and it’s the same with carbon. Today producers and consumers can burn coal and drive gas-guzzlers without fully paying for their contribution to rising carbon dioxide levels. Carbon emissions have a cost, but carbon emitters don’t pay the price. Economists call this a “market failure.” You can call it, “a recipe for toasting the planet.”
Better than a slick in the eye: But when the Senate starts making sausage, who knows what will come out of the grinder. Grist’s David Roberts does the smell test on another approach gaining traction, which could ease the election-year anxieties of Dems from manufacturing states: a cap only on carbon emissions from utility plants.
At this point … the question may no longer be whether a comprehensive bill is preferable to a utility-only bill, but whether a utility-only bill is preferable to the energy-only bill the Senate seems bent on passing. Judged against that somewhat pathetic baseline, it is, in fact, preferable.
Rahm with a view: White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, during an interview on ABC’s This Week, didn’t exactly tip the president’s hand, but did use the words “carbon pollution”:
[Senators] know the president’s perspective. He has been clear with them about what there needs to be done. His goal now, now that the House passed a bill, is to get the Senate to pass a comprehensive energy bill that reduces our dependence on foreign oil, makes key investments in the areas of alternative energy so America leads in that space, and deals fundamentally with the environmental degradation that happens from carbon pollution.
Details, details: For their part, Republican leaders are happy to tip their hand. They break into a Pavlovian chorus of “job-killing national energy tax” any time someone brings up climate legislation proposed by Democrats, particularly the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act.
But FactCheck.org cites analysis concluding that the American Power Act would actually result in a gain of more than 200,000 jobs.
Risky business: While most of the media zeroed in on BP CEO Tony Hayward’s yachting romp off the coast of England or Rep. Ed Markey’s (D-Mass.) revelation that a BP internal memo projected that the Gulf leak could spew up to 100,000 barrels of oil a day, Wall Street Journal reporters Russell Gold and Tom McGinty threw more salt on BP’s festering wounds. Their investigation revealed that for more than a third of its oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico, BP used a design that was cheaper but riskier than the other well major design. And yes, that includes the Deepwater Horizon rig.