First things first: U.S. senators rose one after the next in support of or opposition to a measure that would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to declare heat-trapping gases pollutants. The piece in question, a “disapproval resolution,” was sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). In her floor speech, she skewered the Obama administration’s move to regulate greenhouse gases, saying that approach is too harsh in general, and particularly at such a economically sensitive time. Republicans thrashed the EPA’s endangerment finding, arguing mostly that added regulations would cause economic hardship. Several suggested that the day’s vote was not about the science, although it’s worth keeping in mind that EPA officials evaluated the vast scientific literature on climate change as a part of its decision-making process. Six Democrats voted with the 41 Republican senators against the resolution; it failed, 53-47.
The Murkowski resolution wasn’t necessarily expected to pass. But, as expected, it feeds the conventional wisdom that the Senate won’t be able to pass a bill this year. Wednesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters he would vote against the leading Senate energy-and-climate bill, which he helped write, because it doesn’t have strong enough provisions for offshore oil drilling. He’s suggested that his colleagues “start over and scale down your ambitions.” Earlier, he supported the idea to begin lowering emissions in the utility sector.
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) entered the fray with legislation that would aim to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by about half of the president’s target — 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
Climate Post Book Club, Part IV: Given the ever-increasing repercussions of the BP oil spill, Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman’s American Power Act, Lugar’s Practical Energy and Climate Plan, Murkowski bill, and on and on and on, this is a great week for the world to lose itself in a political history book about climate change. However, until this week, there wasn’t one. On Tuesday, Hyperion published The Climate War by Eric Pooley. The author is deputy editor of Bloomberg Businessweek, former managing editor of Fortune, and former national political correspondent at Time (where I first met him about a decade ago).
The Climate War profiles heavyweights in this saga — including two members of the Nicholas Institute Board of Advisers, EDF President Fred Krupp, and Duke Energy Chairman and CEO Jim Rogers, among other leaders in the now years-long campaign to bring climate policy to Washington.
The director of the Nicholas Institute, Tim Profeta, rose to prominence during this period. As Sen. Joe Lieberman’s environmental policy adviser 10 years ago, Profeta and his counterpart Floyd Deschamps in Sen. John McCain’s office together spent the hot months of 2001 working on the Climate Stewardship Act, known informally as McCain-Lieberman. Pooley:
Profeta and Deschamps stayed up late drafting the bill, pilfering ideas and language from the acid rain cap-and-and trade program and ‘dreaming up big dreams for our little baby that lived in my computer,’ as Profeta recalled it. How were they going to create a new market and put the industrial economy on a carbon diet? There were a million vexing issues. They drew from academic papers written by economists at EDF, Harvard, Resources for the Future, and other think tanks, and did a good enough job that all of the major climate bills to follow would draw from their work.
Profeta’s work and the Nicholas Institute belong to and serve this very large, very consequential story.
The climate story is many things — overwrought, overhyped, misunderstood, ignored, underhyped, overblown, neglected, arcane, overpoliticized, a no-brainer, and endlessly fascinating. When I ask myself why I’m drawn to the topic (frequently), I always come up with the same answer: Climate change is an everlasting gobstopper, however long you chew it, there’s always more to chew over. But until this week, no traditional political journalist with Pooley’s pedigree has chewed through the now 20-year (plus) history of U.S. climate politics. The book is beginning to make its media rounds: Andy Revkin at the New York Times‘ DotEarth blog; an excerpt about Rogers in Bloomberg Businessweek; a piece on Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel; Marc Gunther at GreenBiz.com; and Al Gore’s blog.
Remind me who has the cards?: Battles over climate policy are being fought on several fronts. Incoming U.N. climate chief Christina Figueres prefaced her tenure as lead convener and negotiator with a memorable foray into “expectations management.” She told reporters gathered for a briefing about talks in Bonn, “I do not believe we will ever have a final agreement on climate change, certainly not in my lifetime … If we ever have a final, conclusive, all-answering agreement, then we will have solved this problem. I don’t think that’s in the cards.”
The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.