Reid: Senate floor action before Copenhagen remains on agenda
Buried in the E&E News (subs. req’d) story this morning about the Kerry-Boxer bill is this piece of news:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said floor action this year remains on the agenda. Asked yesterday whether the Senate is on track to pass a climate bill before December’s international climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, he replied, “Yup.”
While I don’t think it’s crucial, I certainly would like to see a fast track for the bill. Two guesses as to whether these comments by Reid get anywhere near as much attention in the status quo media as his earlier comments that the bill might not get to the floor this year.
Kerry and Boxer intentionally left out the details of key provisions needed to bring along moderates and Republicans, including a nuclear title and final negotiations on coal with carbon capture and storage. Still, the reaction wasn’t as bad as I had feared:
Plans to include new natural gas incentives drew attention as lawmakers last night began digesting the long-awaited bill.
A new “clean energy” provision rewards companies that switch from power sources with higher emissions than the 2007 power sector average — such as coal-fired or oil-fired power plants — to cleaner fuels including gas.
The plan received high marks from Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) who said it is a “positive step.”
“Anything we do to promote natural gas would be a very, very smart thing to do,” Landrieu said. “The leaders are hearing from many different parts of the country how much natural gas is out there.”
Landrieu was among nine senators who sent a letter last week to Boxer lobbying for greater incentives for natural gas. Natural gas producers have been aggressively lobbying senators to win greater incentives for the fuel and have garnered support from some swing votes, including Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.).
Natural gas power plants could potentially qualify for the incentives as a fuel that emits 50 percent less carbon dioxide than coal and 30 percent less than oil, as a backup power source for wind, solar and other renewable energy and as a fuel that could utilize CCS technology.
But the provisions on their own appeared quite unlikely to bring Landrieu on board. “I’m still not convinced that the cap-and-trade framework is the best way to create a carbon constrained future,” she said. “I am not committed to cap and trade under any circumstances.”
Hmm. That last sentence is confusing. I’m going to take the positive spin that he means there are some circumstances under which she could support a cap-and-trade pollution reduction and investment bill. Still, she’s pretty doubtful.
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Graham both said they are seeking major incentives for building new nuclear power plants.
The draft circulating yesterday contains a nuclear energy research title to boost ways of expanding the life of current plants. It also calls for new research to improve spent fuel management and increased grants for nuclear industry work force development.
“This bill does not get us where we need to go on nukes, but it’s a start,” Graham said, adding he plans for more talks with Kerry on the issue.
McCain said he is seeking provisions on fuel storage, recycling and greater loan guarantees for nuclear facilities. He said that the draft bill’s 2020 emissions target would be impossible without a substantial nuclear power title. “Frankly, I don’t see how significant reductions are obtainable unless you have nuclear power, so I don’t pay much attention to the goals,” he said.
That seems not fatally negative. Assuming the bill on the floor has slightly weaker targets and a substantial nuclear power title, it would seem to me that McCain is gettable, especially if Obama were to lobby him personally and ask for his help, which would certainly be worth it if McCain can bring Graham with him.
Some Democrats, like Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), are pushing legislation they say would empower the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to implement robust rules to prevent manipulation and undue speculation.
But others — notably Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) — who say regulators have been far too lax in policing energy derivatives trading say these markets should not be allowed at all for carbon.
“I’m not a big fan of trading in general in carbon markets,” Cantwell said. But the senator said she nonetheless welcomed the release of the legislation. “We’re happy the bill is moving. That’s the key thing, because we all want to put a price on carbon.”
Cantwell’s gonna vote for the bill. I’ll bet that Dorgan will at least vote for cloture, to end the inevitable and immoral conservative filibuster — but again, Obama will need to personally intervene.
Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) put out this tough statement:
“The climate legislation proposed today by Senators Boxer and Kerry is a disappointing step in the wrong direction and I am against it.
“Requiring 20 percent emission reductions by 2020 is unrealistic and harmful – it is simply not enough time to deploy the carbon capture and storage (CCS) and energy efficiency technologies we need. Period.
“Our nation cannot survive without energy from coal and any viable climate policy must solidify our future by focusing on technology to make coal cleaner faster.
“I will continue studying the bill and all of its implications for our state and the coal industry. This is by no means the defining word on climate legislation in the Senate.
“I remain adamant in my conviction not to support any bill that might threaten the economy, workers or families across West Virginia.
“We should take the time to approach these issues with absolute care and diligence – they require nothing less.”
So the final bill will move in his direction. I think he’ll support it. Heck, I’m such an optimist I think there’s a 50-50 chance Byrd will vote for cloture.