Ron Brownstein — for my money the best political reporter out there — examines the implosion of the Lieberman-Warner bill in National Journal.
Here’s his three-paragraph summary of what went wrong:
The bill would have established enough boards and regulations that the chamber [of commerce] was able to distribute a devastating chart, modeled on those used against Hillary Rodham Clinton’s health care plan in 1993, that portrayed the proposal as an impossibly tangled hedge of new bureaucracies. The next version will “have to be simpler,” says Eileen Claussen, president of the nonpartisan Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
The bill also provoked unexpectedly stiff opposition on a related front. Under the measure, Washington would distribute about half the credits to emit greenhouse gases for free and would auction the rest–yielding an estimated $3.4 trillion in federal revenue over the next 40 years. Republicans such as Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee derided that money as a “slush fund” that would enable massive spending on causes far beyond clean-energy research. That complaint was somewhat overstated: The legislation would have allocated half of the expected revenue to tax cuts and deficit reduction. But, aiming to buy support, Boxer’s final version did shower billions onto programs from wildlife adaptation to worker training. To pass, the reworked bill will need to focus more tightly on subsidizing new technology and providing tax cuts to moderate-income taxpayers to offset the higher energy costs it will trigger.
That raises the final problem. Amid soaring oil prices, proponents faltered before critics’ charges that the measure would inflate energy bills. In fact, the best estimate is that the legislation would increase gasoline prices only about 2.5 cents per gallon per year. And although it would more noticeably increase the cost for electricity generated from fossil fuels, that’s necessary to make clean alternatives more competitive — as the International Energy Agency underscored in a farsighted report released on June 6. The agency found that reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to a safe level might require $45 trillion in additional energy investment worldwide through 2050 but eventual fuel savings could recover most of that cost.
So, the bill was too complicated and threw around too much pork, and the Dems pushing it had too weak a response to the attack on costs.
Sounds about right to me.