Lieberman-Warner Day Three: Climate Legislation and Energy Costs

Posted by Gristmill Wed, 04 Jun 2008 20:27:00 GMT

Cross-posted from Gristmill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he won’t allow floor debate on the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (S. 3036) to extend beyond next week, according to an article in E&E News (subs. only) today. “If we don’t finish it next week, then it means something has gone wrong,” he’s quoted as saying.

But at an earlier press conference, he told reporters, “I want to be patient and try to get as much done as soon as we can. If we arrive at a point where we’re just wasting our time, we will have to figure out something else.”

If Reid sticks to what he told E&E News, the Senate won’t have a lot of time to debate actual adjustments to the legislation. They’ve already burned two and a half days of debate without getting to any votes on amendments, thanks to procedural stalling by the Republican leadership that called for 30 hours of discussion before moving to amendments. After those 30 hours were expended, they demanded that the entire 492-page bill be read aloud, claiming they hadn’t yet had time to read it.

During those first 30 hours, GOP leaders offered a taste of the fight ahead: They downplayed the need for climate action and framed Lieberman-Warner as a bill that would destroy the economy. John Cornyn (R-Texas) even went so far as to make a chart declaring the bill the “Boxer Climate Tax.”

Some Republicans also attempted to make the case that the bill would increase the cost of gasoline at a time of already-record prices, citing the EPA’s analysis of the bill that projects a $0.53 cent increase in gasoline by 2030. For those of you counting, that’s about $0.02 a year. (Meanwhile, gasoline prices have increased from $1.47 per gallon in January 2001 to more than $4.00 a gallon today.) Kit Bond (R-Mo.) alleged that the Climate Security Act would have us all driving “golf carts,” and called the legislation as a whole a “complicated Soviet-style scheme.” The amendment process has yet to begin, but Republicans have already circulated 90 weakening amendments that they plan to offer.

Democrats, for their part, have argued that the bill will reduce the country’s dependence on oil and increase the use of alternatives, which will bring down energy costs for consumers. They’ve also talked up the bill’s provisions to shield consumers from increases, including an $800 billion consumer tax relief package and a $911 billion allowance to local electricity and gas utilities to help them cushion consumers from price swings, invest in renewables, and promote efficiency.

“Studies do not account for the cost of doing nothing,” said bill sponsor Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), noting that analyses of Lieberman-Warner have found that GDP would still grow and the economic impacts of the bill would be very small. Even those projections cannot take into account the potential for growth through a new green economy, or what could be lost if emissions are not curbed, argued Lieberman.

Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who last year sponsored a tougher climate bill (S. 309) along with Boxer, vowed to introduce an amendment to strengthen the targets for emissions cuts. He also talked up energy efficiency, raising fuel-economy standards, and investing in mass transit as integral means of further reducing emissions.

Meanwhile, everyone is waiting for the Senate to actually get to the amendment process …

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