Substantively, most of what Gore said to the Senate echoed what he said to the House. There were a few things to note about the Senate hearing, though:
- Gore’s introductory remarks to the Senate (videos here) were a huge step down from his performance in the House. To my eye, he seemed shaky, hesitant, stiff, occasionally bombastic, mostly just uneven. Maybe he knows the folks in the House better? Maybe his lunch didn’t agree with him? Maybe he was nervous about his coming confrontation with Inhofe? Who knows. I was worried. Ironically, it wasn’t until Inhofe attacked that Gore got his groove back. He did a stellar job in the Q&A, and finished extremely well.
- Inhofe was predictably unhinged, but I was struck by just how isolated he seemed. Virtually every other Republican on the committee began with a strong declaration of their acceptance of the problem and their eagerness to find solutions. Inhofe increasingly seems like a guy ranting on a street corner, only with more visual aids.
- Though they were respectful and collegial, most Senators seemed largely in the dark about global warming — to the point that they couldn’t even really come up with good questions. Even the Dems, who spent their time lauding Gore as a prophet, didn’t seem to have much in the way of concrete information to work from. Of course, Sanders knew his stuff, Lautenberg and Boxer and Clinton are good, but for most of them it was just, what about nuclear? or, what about coal?
- Republicans in Congress are positively obsessed with nuclear power. At least three or four of them devoted their whole question period to it — Craig, Bond, Isakson, and Alexander, just off the top of my head. Every time they asked the same question, and every time got the same answer: it will be part of the energy mix, but not a big part, because in an energy market governed by extreme uncertainty, investors are looking for small, incremental bets, and nuclear “only comes in one size: extra-large.” To their credit, several of them — particularly Craig and Isakson — did seem to know the subject quite well. Far better than they knew climate change.
- Hillary Clinton made me laugh out loud with her almost child-like interest in and delight with policy. I was wondering if there would be personal drama between them, but she seemed entirely absorbed in the in’s and out’s of policy. It was quite endearing. (I wish she would just stay in the Senate, where she so obviously flourishes.)
- One thing every Senator, and lots of Reps, were focused on is: how do we cushion the blow to the losers? That means car companies, people in coal states, working class families, etc. This is something greens should talk much more about.
Overall, not quite the show the House hearing was, but positive, both for Gore and for the cause of legislative action on global warming.
Other good coverage: the best wrap-up I’ve seen is from Kevin Vranes; Brian Beutler has more great liveblogging; here’s a Washington Post story I didn’t much care for; Bill Scher has several good posts.