Senators John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham are working with the White House, environmentalists, and industry to craft comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation, which they plan to unveil on Monday. But Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH), both of whom have admitted the threat of global warming, today announced “a narrower competing bill” that resembles the weak legislation passed out of the Senate energy committee last year:
George V. Voinovich of Ohio and Richard G. Lugar of Indiana are developing an energy-only bill that would mandate new renewable and nuclear power production without imposing cuts on carbon emissions.Lugar first unveiled this plan on March 30, which looks like something from the Carter era. This approach, which has also been floated by energy committee members Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), and Sen. Lisa Murkowksi (R-AK), has been described by Graham as “half-assed.” Voinovich believes that subsidy-based legislation that fails to reduce global warming pollution is more “doable” than comprehensive reform that pays its own way by putting a price on carbon pollution:
I’d like to get something done. But I’m not sure it would meet the standards of the environmental groups or what Sen. Kerry would like to get done. I’d like to do the doable — move it down the field while I can.
More problematically, Voinovich also announced today that climate legislation “must include a comprehensive preemption provision that goes well beyond language included in previous climate bills” to get his support, a poison-pill stance that would derail the progress made by states across the nation to build a green economy.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) have been jockeying for attention with a bill that addresses the other half of energy reform, a climate-only package with weak targets known as the CLEAR Act.
These senators are participating in a complex dance – if President Obama and the public throw their weight behind real action, then these senators can take credit when elements of their bills appear in the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman legislation. However, if momentum stalls under the weight of polluter lobbying and Beltway indifference to the climate crisis, they can instead say they offered a “pragmatic” alternative.