The climate train is leaving the station.  It is becoming increasingly likely Congress will pass a comprehensive energy bill that includes a shrinking cap and a rising carbon price (with a price collar).   Key swing Senators are moving away from obstructionism toward a bipartisan deal.  Those who stand on the sidelines not only risk ending up on the wrong side of history for this momentous bill, but they risk the more tangible benefits of sitting at the negotiating table.

The Washington Times reported today:

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Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, praised the climate change legislation outlined Sunday by GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democratic Sen. John Kerry…..

Her remarks signal the potential for a major turn in the climate change debate in Congress. She has been a leading opponent of the type of legislation that has been moving forward so far…..

“I’m hopeful their column will mark a shift in the climate debate,” Murkowski said at a hearing by the energy committee. “Instead of cutting emissions at any cost, we should be working on a policy that incorporates the best ideas of both parties, a policy that accounts for our near-term energy needs, limits costs and is flexible enough to work under different economic circumstances,” she said.

In the op-ed, the two Senators asserted they have developed “a framework for climate legislation to pass Congress and the blueprint for a clean-energy future that will revitalize our economy, protect current jobs and create new ones, safeguard our national security and reduce pollution.” The framework includes, among other things, more offshore drilling and incentives for nuclear power, neither of which should be deal breakers for progressives as I have explained.

Murkowski’s office has now put out a press release reiterating her statements:

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Murkowski also noted that she hoped the framework for climate policy laid out by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., would mark a turning point in the climate debate….

Murkowski, the top Republican on the committee, supports addressing climate change in an economically safe and environmentally meaningful way.

Yesterday, I pointed out that Nate Silver’s “Probability of Yes” vote for Murkowski is 2.37%, putting her in the “Republican Hail Mary’s & No-Shots,” writing:

But based on this op-ed, and her earlier statements, I’m going to put her at 50%.  Assuming Graham and Kerry come up with a compromise that, say, McCain can support, how exactly will Murkowski oppose it?  On grounds that it was not a “good faith” effort to address climate change?

Silver himself has a column today “Can Offshore Drilling Save the Climate Bill?” on the subject.  I actually think his analysis focuses too much on the wrong element of the deal — the proposed nuclear provisions are probably more important for securing the 60 votes than the drilling provisions.  Indeed, you have no chance whatsoever of getting either Liebermann or Graham, let alone McCain and many others, without a strong nuclear title.  Here is his bottom line:

…So what does this get the Democrats? It gets them Linsday Graham’s vote, and possibly Lisa Murkowski’s. It takes Mark Begich from a leaner to a likely yes. It might encourage Mary Landrieu, and possibly George LeMieux of Florida, to look more sympathetically at the bill. Then there are a whole host of more remote possibilities: Isakson of Georgia, and perhaps Cochran and Wicker of Mississippi or Burr of North Carolina; none of those votes are likely, but they become more plausible with offshore drilling in place. Overall, it seems to be worth something like 2-4 votes at the margin.

I don’t think it gets you any of the “more remote possibilities.”

That would give the Kerry-Graham bill a fighting chance, especially if an additional vote or two — possibly John McCain’s — can also be picked up as a result of the nuclear energy compromise. Of course, that’s assuming that no liberals would rebel against the new provisions, but the opposition to both offshore drilling and nuclear energy seems to be fairly soft in the liberal caucus. I would not place money on the climate bill passing this year, but the odds would seem to be a lot better with the drilling compromise in place.

Again, I think he misses the point.  The nuclear provisions are probably more important.  Here, for instance, is a statement last month from the office of Senator Voinovich (R-OH):

As both Chairman and Ranking Member on the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee over the last eight years, Senator Voinovich has had oversight responsibility of the NRC, and has worked hard to ensure the NRC has the resources to fulfill their role in ensuring public safety.

Sen. Voinovich continues to believe that nuclear power is the only real alternative we have today to produce enough low-cost, reliable, and clean energy to remove harmful pollutants from the air, prevent the harmful effects of global climate change and keep good jobs from going overseas. At a time when we are struggling to regain our economic footing, Ohio’s manufacturing industry has an incredible opportunity when it comes to nuclear energy. Nuclear energy offers thousands of well-paying jobs in all stages of development and production.

The Kerry-Graham deal certainly puts his vote for the bill in the “gettable” column.  And as the bill becomes more genuinely bipartisan, then Senators like Lugar (R-IN) become gettable too.  I think the final bill will 5 or more Rs and 62 or more total votes.

Silver’s finally sentence “I would not place money on the climate bill passing this year” is a tad too coy.  I myself would not place money on the climate bill passing the Senate this year.  But I would place money
on it passing by next year, and I’d be interested to know whether Silver would, too.

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