From the Wonk Room.
“We really can’t say we’re the Saudi Arabia of coal anymore,” says Brenda Pierce, head of the USGS team that found the estimates of a 240-year supply of coal in the United States to be grossly inflated, as “relatively little of it can be profitably extracted.”
The Congressional Budget Office has released its cost estimate of the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), finding that it would reduce budget deficits “about $24 billion over the 2010-2019 period.”
In a mock hearing today, Republican senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John McCain (R-AZ), and Jim Bunning (R-KY) “will propose building 100 new nuclear power plants over the next 20 years” instead of a mandatory cap on greenhouse gas emissions.
From ThinkProgress’s Ali Frick.
Today, the right wing – enthusiastically joined by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) – attacked Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) for advocating in a January interview a cap and trade plan that would reward new coal plants built with carbon capture technology. McCain said he wanted to control emissions, but insisted, “I’m not going to let our coal industry go bankrupt.” Palin claimed Obama has been “talking about bankrupting the coal industry,” and pledged, “John McCain and I, we will not let that happen to the coal industry.”
Now former governor Mitt Romney is using McCain’s attacks against Obama to attack McCain himself. On Glenn Beck’s radio show today, he denounced McCain’s cap and trade program, saying it would “kill jobs” in the U.S. and that he would “endeavor to convince” McCain to change his plans:
BECK: How would you address the cap and trade on the day when everyone’s paying attention to coal?
ROMNEY: Well as you know, there were a number of places in the primary campaign where I disagreed with John McCain, and his cap and trade proposal was one of them. ... If you want to negotiate with someone and you feel it’s important to bring down global CO2 emissions then China has to be part of the picture. And if we go out there and put a burden on our own industry and they don’t put a burden on theirs, why you’ll just kill jobs here.
From the Wonk Room.Both presidential candidates, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) have called for a mandatory cap on carbon emissions in the United States. Coal-fired power plants, which produce about 49 percent of U.S. electricity, account for 83 percent of power-sector emissions. Because of the global warming footprint, the cheapness of coal-fired electricity is illusory. Under a cap-and-trade system, the cost of those emissions – now a market externality – would have a dollar cost. In a January 2008 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Obama used blunt language to describe how a cap and trade system would change the future of the power sector:
That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants are being built, they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted-down caps that are imposed every year. So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel, and other alternative energy approaches.Obama’s statements carry the same sentiment as his opponent. At a September 15 townhall meeting in Orlando, FL, McCain warned against building new coal plants:
We’re going to build new plants that generate energy, my friends, we’re going to build them. We’ve got to. There’s an increased demand for it. And it seems to me, it’s going to be coal, which I believe will increase greenhouse gas emissions dramatically, or it’s going to be nuclear, or it’s going to be clean coal technology.In the San Francisco Chronicle interview, Obama similarly stated that the future of power involves coal:
But this notion of no coal, I think, is an illusion. Because the fact of the matter is, is that right now we are getting a lot of our energy from coal. And China is building a coal-powered plant once a week. So what we have to do then is figure out how can we use coal without emitting greenhouse gases and carbon. And how can we sequester that carbon and capture it. If we can’t, then we’re gonna still be working on alternatives.Under either candidate’s cap and trade program, constructing new coal plants that do not employ “clean coal technology” – that is, carbon capture and sequestration technology – would raise costs “dramatically.” Independent analysts have found that new coal plants would “create significant financial risks for shareholders and ratepayers” because of the likely cost of their greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, energy providers will have a financial incentive to pursue alternative energy and energy efficiency. McCain explained the market signal of a cap and trade program in his May 12 speech on climate change:
And the same approach that brought a decline in sulfur dioxide emissions can have an equally dramatic and permanent effect on carbon emissions. Instantly, automakers, coal companies, power plants, and every other enterprise in America would have an incentive to reduce carbon emissions, because when they go under those limits they can sell the balance of permitted emissions for cash. As never before, the market would reward any person or company that seeks to invent, improve, or acquire alternatives to carbon-based energy. . . A cap-and-trade policy will send a signal that will be heard and welcomed all across the American economy. Those who want clean coal technology, more wind and solar, nuclear power, biomass and bio-fuels will have their opportunity through a new market that rewards those and other innovations in clean energy.
McCain emphasized who the winners under a carbon cap-and-trade system are: “clean coal technology, more wind and solar, nuclear power, biomass and bio-fuels.” The market “incentive,” “reward,” or “signal” is a euphemism that the winners will make money because the losers will pay more. And the losers, above all, are traditional coal plants—no matter who is elected president.
Sen. McCain’s (R-Ariz.) running mate pick, Gov. Sarah Palin, is a proud evangelical conservative who questions anthropogenic climate change and evolution.In January of this year, she questioned climate models that show the threat of extinction of polar bears due to the loss of sea ice:
In fact, there is insufficient evidence that polar bears are in danger of becoming extinct within the foreseeable future — the trigger for protection under the Endangered Species Act. . . The possible listing of a healthy species like the polar bear would be based on uncertain modeling of possible effects. This is simply not justified.Following the decision to list polar bears as a threatened species in May, Palin chose to file suit to overturn the listing. She argued:
We believe that the Service’s decision to list the polar bear was not based on the best scientific and commercial data available.In a Newsmax interview released today, Palin questioned the science of manmade global warming:
A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I’m not one though who would attribute it to being man-made.
This position is in opposition to the global scientific community, the leaders of every nation on the planet, and her running mate.Similarly, Palin is an advocate of teaching creationism in opposition to natural selection:
Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both.
In an interview with the Anchorage Daily News, she said “I won’t have religion as a litmus test, or anybody’s personal opinion on evolution or creationism.”
A Bush administration proposal that would eliminate the input of independent government scientists in some endangered species reviews would be tossed out if Democrat Barack Obama wins the White House, his campaign says.
“This 11th-hour ruling from the Bush administration is highly problematic. After over 30 years of successfully protecting our nation’s most endangered wildlife like the bald eagle, we should be looking for ways to improve it, not weaken it,” said Obama campaign spokesman Nick Shapiro. “As president, Senator Obama will fight to maintain the strong protections of the Endangered Species Act and undo this proposal from President Bush.”
A spokesman for Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential nominee, said he had no comment on Bush’s revisions.
The Associated Press reported Monday details of a proposal by the Interior and Commerce departments that would change how the 1973 law is implemented, allowing federal agencies to decide for themselves — without seeking the opinions of government wildlife experts — whether dams, highways and other projects have the potential to harm endangered species and habitats.
Current law requires federal agencies to consult with experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service if a project poses so much as a remote risk to species or habitats.
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne defended the changes in a call with reporters Monday, calling them narrow modifications to make the law more clear and efficient.
In recent years, both federal agencies and developers have complained that the reviews, which can result in changes to projects that better protect species, have delayed work and increased costs.
The proposed regulations, which will be published Thursday in the Federal Register, included one significant change from the earlier draft: The public comment period was cut in half, from 60 to 30 days.
“In this case, it was determined that we need to move forward in a timely fashion,” said Interior Department spokeswoman Tina Kreisher.
If the proposal should become final by November, a new administration could propose another rule, a process that could take months. Congress could also pass legislation, but that could take even longer.
An aide for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said that panel would hold a hearing on the rule changes when Congress returns in September.
Here is the full text of Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) speech on climate change in Portland, Oregon, as prepared for delivery:
Thank you all very much. I appreciate the hospitality of Vestas Wind Technology. Today is a kind of test run for the company. They’ve got wind technicians here, wind studies, and all these wind turbines, but there’s no wind. So now I know why they asked me to come give a speech.
Every day, when there are no reporters and cameras around to draw attention to it, this company and others like it are doing important work. And what we see here is just a glimpse of much bigger things to come. Wind power is one of many alternative energy sources that are changing our economy for the better. And one day they will change our economy forever.
Wind is a clean and predictable source of energy, and about as renewable as anything on earth. Along with solar power, fuel-cell technology, cleaner burning fuels and other new energy sources, wind power will bring America closer to energy independence. Our economy depends upon clean and affordable alternatives to fossil fuels, and so, in many ways, does our security. A large share of the world’s oil reserves is controlled by foreign powers that do not have our interests at heart. And as our reliance on oil passes away, their power will vanish with it.
In the coming weeks I intend to address many of the great challenges that America’s energy policies must meet. When we debate energy bills in Washington, it should be more than a competition among industries for special favors, subsidies, and tax breaks. In the Congress, we need to send the special interests on their way – without their favors and subsidies. We need to draw on the best ideas of both parties, and on all the resources a free market can provide. We need to keep our eyes on big goals in energy policy, the serious dangers, and the common interests of the American people.
Today I’d like to focus on just one of those challenges, and among environmental dangers it is surely the most serious of all. Whether we call it “climate change” or “global warming,” in the end we’re all left with the same set of facts. The facts of global warming demand our urgent attention, especially in Washington. Good stewardship, prudence, and simple commonsense demand that we to act meet the challenge, and act quickly.
Some of the most compelling evidence of global warming comes to us from NASA. No longer do we need to rely on guesswork and computer modeling, because satellite images reveal a dramatic disappearance of glaciers, Antarctic ice shelves and polar ice sheets. And I’ve seen some of this evidence up close. A few years ago I traveled to the area of Svalbard, Norway, a group of islands in the Arctic Ocean. I was shown the southernmost point where a glacier had reached twenty years earlier. From there, we had to venture northward up the fjord to see where that same glacier ends today – because all the rest has melted. On a trip to Alaska, I heard about a national park visitor’s center that was built to offer a picture-perfect view of a large glacier. Problem is, the glacier is gone. A work of nature that took ages to form had melted away in a matter of decades.
Our scientists have also seen and measured reduced snowpack, with earlier runoffs in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere. We have seen sustained drought in the Southwest, and across the world average temperatures that seem to reach new records every few years. We have seen a higher incidence of extreme weather events. In the frozen wilds of Alaska, the Arctic, Antarctic, and elsewhere, wildlife biologists have noted sudden changes in animal migration patterns, a loss of their habitat, a rise in sea levels. And you would think that if the polar bears, walruses, and sea birds have the good sense to respond to new conditions and new dangers, then humanity can respond as well.
We have many advantages in the fight against global warming, but time is not one of them. Instead of idly debating the precise extent of global warming, or the precise timeline of global warming, we need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters, and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring. We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great. The most relevant question now is whether our own government is equal to the challenge.
There are vital measures we can take in the short term, even as we focus on long-term policies to mitigate the effects of global warming. In the years ahead, we are likely to see reduced water supplies … more forest fires than in previous decades … changes in crop production … more heat waves afflicting our cities and a greater intensity in storms. Each one of these consequences of climate change will require policies to protect our citizens, especially those most vulnerable to violent weather. Each one will require new precautions in the repair and construction our roads, bridges, railways, seawalls and other infrastructure. Some state local governments have already begun their planning and preparation for extreme events and other impacts of climate change. The federal government can help them in many ways, above all by coordinating their efforts, and I am committed to providing that support.
To lead in this effort, however, our government must strike at the source of the problem—with reforms that only Congress can enact and the president can sign. We know that greenhouse gasses are heavily implicated as a cause of climate change. And we know that among all greenhouse gasses, the worst by far is the carbon-dioxide that results from fossil-fuel combustion. Yet for all the good work of entrepreneurs and inventors in finding cleaner and better technologies, the fundamental incentives of the market are still on the side of carbon-based energy. This has to change before we can make the decisive shift away from fossil fuels.
For the market to do more, government must do more by opening new paths of invention and ingenuity. And we must do this in a way that gives American businesses new incentives and new rewards to seek, instead of just giving them new taxes to pay and new orders to follow. The most direct way to achieve this is through a system that sets clear limits on all greenhouse gases, while also allowing the sale of rights to excess emissions. And this is the proposal I will submit to the Congress if I am elected president—a cap-and-trade system to change the dynamic of our energy economy.
As a program under the Clean Air Act, the cap-and-trade system achieved enormous success in ridding the air of acid rain. And the same approach that brought a decline in sulfur dioxide emissions can have an equally dramatic and permanent effect on carbon emissions. Instantly, automakers, coal companies, power plants, and every other enterprise in America would have an incentive to reduce carbon emissions, because when they go under those limits they can sell the balance of permitted emissions for cash. As never before, the market would reward any person or company that seeks to invent, improve, or acquire alternatives to carbon-based energy. It is very hard to picture venture capitalists, corporate planners, small businesses and environmentalists all working to the same good purpose. But such cooperation is actually possible in the case of climate change, and this reform will set it in motion.
The people of this country have a genius for adapting, solving problems, and inventing new and better ways to accomplish our goals. But the federal government can’t just summon those talents by command – only the free market can draw them out. A cap-and-trade policy will send a signal that will be heard and welcomed all across the American economy. Those who want clean coal technology, more wind and solar, nuclear power, biomass and bio-fuels will have their opportunity through a new market that rewards those and other innovations in clean energy. The market will evolve, too, by requiring sensible reductions in greenhouse gases, but also by allowing full flexibility in how industry meets that requirement. Entrepreneurs and firms will know which energy investments they should make. And the highest rewards will go to those who make the smartest, safest, most responsible choices. A cap-and-trade reform will also create a profitable opportunity for rural America to receive market-based payments
- instead of government subsidies -for the conservation practices that store carbon in the soils of our nation’s farms.
We will cap emissions according to specific goals, measuring progress by reference to past carbon emissions. By the year 2012, we will seek a return to 2005 levels of emission … by 2020, a return to 1990 levels … and so on until we have achieved at least a reduction of sixty percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050. In the course of time, it may be that new ideas and technologies will come along that we can hardly imagine today, allowing all industries to change with a speed that will surprise us. More likely, however, there will be some companies that need extra emissions rights, and they will be able to buy them. The system to meet these targets and timetables will give these companies extra time to adapt—and that is good economic policy. It is also a matter of simple fairness, because the cap-and-trade system will create jobs, improve livelihoods, and strengthen futures across our country.
The goal in all of this is to assure an energy supply that is safe, secure, diverse, and domestic. And in pursuit of these objectives, we cannot afford to take economic growth and job creation for granted. A strong and growing economy is essential to all of our goals, and especially the goal of finding alternatives to carbon-based technology. We want to turn the American economy toward cleaner and safer energy sources. And you can’t achieve that by imposing costs that the American economy cannot sustain.
As part of my cap-and-trade incentives, I will also propose to include the purchase of offsets from those outside the scope of the trading system. This will broaden the array of rewards for reduced emissions, while also lowering the costs of compliance with our new emissions standards. Through the sale of offsets – and with strict standards to assure that reductions are real – our agricultural sector alone can provide as much as forty percent of the overall reductions we will require in greenhouse gas emissions. And in the short term, farmers and ranchers can do it in some of the most cost-effective ways.
Over time, an increasing fraction of permits for emissions could be supplied by auction, yielding federal revenues that can be put to good use. Under my plan, we will apply these and other federal funds to help build the infrastructure of a post-carbon economy. We will support projects to advance technologies that capture and store carbon emissions. We will assist in transmitting wind- and solar-generated power from states that have them to states that need them. We will add to current federal efforts to develop promising technologies, such as plug-ins, hybrids, flex-fuel vehicles, and hydrogen-powered cars and trucks. We will also establish clear standards in government-funded research, to make sure that funding is effective and focused on the right goals.
And to create greater demand for the best technologies and practices in energy conservation, we will use the purchasing power of the United States government. Our government can hardly expect citizens and private businesses to adopt or invest in low-carbon technologies when it doesn’t always hold itself to the same standard. We need to set a better example in Washington, by consistently applying the best environmental standards to every purchase our government makes.
As we move toward all of these goals, and over time put the age of fossil fuels behind us, we must consider every alternative source of power, and that includes nuclear power. When our cap-and-trade policy is in place, there will be a sudden and sustained pursuit in the market for new investment opportunities in low-emission fuel sources. And here we have a known, proven energy source that requires exactly zero emissions. We have 104 nuclear reactors in our country, generating about twenty percent of our electricity. These reactors alone spare the atmosphere from about 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide that would otherwise be released every year. That’s the annual equivalent of nearly all emissions from all the cars we drive in America. Europe, for its part, has 197 reactors in operation, and nations including France and Belgium derive more than half their electricity from nuclear power. Those good practices contribute to the more than two billion metric tons of carbon dioxide avoided every year, worldwide, because of nuclear energy. It doesn’t take a leap in logic to conclude that if we want to arrest global warming, then nuclear energy is a powerful ally in that cause.
In a cap-and-trade energy economy, the cost of building new reactors will be less prohibitive. The incentives to invest in a mature, zero-emissions technology will be stronger. New research and innovation will help the industry to overcome the well known drawbacks to nuclear power, such as the transport and storage of waste. And our government can help in these efforts. We can support research to extend the use of existing plants. Above all, we must make certain that every plant in America is safe from the designs of terrorists. And when all of this is assured, it will be time again to expand our use of one of the cleanest, safest, and most reliable sources of energy on earth.
For all of the last century, the profit motive basically led in one direction—toward machines, methods, and industries that used oil and gas. Enormous good came from that industrial growth, and we are all the beneficiaries of the national prosperity it built. But there were costs we weren’t counting, and often hardly noticed. And these terrible costs have added up now, in the atmosphere, in the oceans, and all across the natural world. They are no longer tenable, sustainable, or defensible. And what better way to correct past errors than to turn the creative energies of the free market in the other direction? Under the cap-and-trade system, this can happen. In all its power, the profit motive will suddenly begin to shift and point the other way – toward cleaner fuels, wiser ways, and a healthier planet.
As a nation, we make our own environmental plans and our own resolutions. But working with other nations to arrest climate change can be an even tougher proposition. China, India, and other developing economic powers in particular are among the greatest contributors to global warming today—increasing carbon emissions at a furious pace – and they are not receptive to international standards. Nor do they think that we in the industrialized world are in any position to preach the good news of carbon-emission control. We made most of our contributions to global warming before anyone knew about global warming.
This set of facts and perceived self-interests proved the undoing of the Kyoto Protocols. As president, I will have to deal with the same set of facts. I will not shirk the mantle of leadership that the United States bears. I will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges. I will not accept the same dead-end of failed diplomacy that claimed Kyoto. The United States will lead and will lead with a different approach—an approach that speaks to the interests and obligations of every nation.
Shared dangers mean shared duties, and global problems require global cooperation. The United States and our friends in Europe cannot alone deal with the threat of global warming. No nation should be exempted from its obligations. And least of all should we make exceptions for the very countries that are accelerating carbon emissions while the rest of us seek to reduce emissions. If we are going to establish meaningful environmental protocols, then they must include the two nations that have the potential to pollute the air faster, and in greater annual volume, than any nation ever in history.
At the same time, we will continue in good faith to negotiate with China and other nations to enact the standards and controls that are in the interest of every nation – whatever their stage of economic development. And America can take the lead in offering these developing nations the low-carbon technologies that we will make and they will need. One good idea or invention to reduce carbon emissions is worth a thousand finely crafted proposals at a conference table. And the governments of these developing economic powers will soon recognize, as America is beginning to do, their urgent need for cleaner-burning fuels and safer sources of energy.
If the efforts to negotiate an international solution that includes China and India do not succeed, we still have an obligation to act.
In my approach to global climate-control efforts, we will apply the principle of equal treatment. We will apply the same environmental standards to industries in China, India, and elsewhere that we apply to our own industries. And if industrializing countries seek an economic advantage by evading those standards, I would work with the European Union and other like-minded governments that plan to address the global warming problem to develop a cost equalization mechanism to apply to those countries that decline to enact a similar cap.
For all of its historical disregard of environmental standards, it cannot have escaped the attention of the Chinese regime that China’s skies are dangerously polluted, its beautiful rivers are dying, its grasslands vanishing, its coastlines receding, and its own glaciers melting. We know many of these signs from our own experience—from environmental lessons learned the hard way. And today, all the world knows that they are the signs of even greater trouble to come. Pressing on blindly with uncontrolled carbon emissions is in no one’s interest, especially China’s. And the rest of the world stands ready to help.
Like other environmental challenges
- only more so -global warming presents a test of foresight, of political courage, and of the unselfish concern that one generation owes to the next. We need to think straight about the dangers ahead, and to meet the problem with all the resources of human ingenuity at our disposal. We Americans like to say that there is no problem we can’t solve, however complicated, and no obstacle we cannot overcome if we meet it together. I believe this about our country. I know this about our country. And now it is time for us to show those qualities once again.
In an interview with Darren Samuelson of E&E News last Thursday, Douglas Holtz-Eakin lays down significant markers for Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) climate policy.On policies such as a low-carbon fuel standard or renewable portfolio standard:
“The basic idea is if you go with a cap and trade and do it right with appropriate implementation, you don’t need technology-specific and sectoral policies that are on the books and that others are proposing simultaneously.”On the rise in CAFE standards in the 2007 energy act:
“He’s not proposing to eliminate those. He simply wants to check as time goes on if they become completely irrelevant. You might want to take them off the books, but we’re not there yet.”On McCain-Lieberman:
“When he introduced that bill, the floor statement was pretty clear that this was an ongoing process. He wasn’t so much committed to the bill as to an issue.”On Lieberman-Warner:
“The Lieberman-Warner is a good bill. It’s not his intention to suggest anything different. . . We don’t take positions on Senate legislation given it will change. He’s going to realistically need to have time to study the bill. It’s premature.”On nuclear subsidies:
“He wants to see the use of nukes. The ultimate policy proposal will be designed to make sure that’s true.”
Holtz-Eakin, director of the Congressional Budget Office from 2003-2005 and chief economist for President Bush 2001-2002, is the top economic advisor for Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.
CAMPAIGN 2008: McCain adviser questions Democrats’ push for more than cap and trade (03/21/2008) Darren Samuelsohn, Greenwire senior reporter
John McCain bucks the traditional Republican establishment with his support for cap-and-trade legislation, but the Arizona senator’s presidential campaign is trying to differentiate itself from its Democratic rivals by rejecting calls for additional climate-themed restrictions.
“The basic idea is if you go with a cap and trade and do it right with appropriate implementation, you don’t need technology-specific and sectoral policies that are on the books and that others are proposing simultaneously,” Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a McCain campaign policy adviser, said in an interview yesterday.
Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office, dismissed the presidential campaign platforms of McCain’s two remaining Democratic rivals, Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. Specifically, he questioned the candidates’ calls for a new federal low carbon fuel limit, stronger fuel economy standards and policies to reduce U.S. oil consumption.
Cap and trade, Holtz-Eakin said, is the ideal solution by itself. “You don’t need redundant policies that interfere with the flexibility that is the key to meeting these desirable goals at low costs,” he said.
Asked if this position meant McCain would block implementation of new corporate average fuel economy requirements that President Bush signed into law last December, Holtz-Eakin replied, “He’s not proposing to eliminate those. He simply wants to check as time goes on if they become completely irrelevant. You might want to take them off the books, but we’re not there yet.”
Both Clinton and Obama support setting up a mandatory cap-and-trade program to reduce U.S. heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by midcentury. They are also identical in backing a 100 percent auction of the emission credits.
Unlike McCain, the two Democratic candidates would push their climate regulations beyond cap and trade.
Clinton, for example, would increase fuel efficiency standards to 55 miles per gallon by 2030 and cut foreign oil imports by two-thirds from 2030 projected levels. Obama says he would double fuel economy standards within 18 years and supports a federal low carbon fuel standard requiring suppliers to reduce the carbon their fuel emits by 10 percent by 2020.
Campaign aides for both Clinton and Obama did not return calls or e-mails requesting comment about the McCain adviser’s efforts to contrast the candidates.
But their surrogates did defend the push for even broader climate policies beyond cap and trade during a panel discussion last week in Santa Barbara, Calif., hosted by the Wall Street Journal.
“He appreciates the problem of climate change is unlike anything we’ve ever faced before,” Obama climate adviser Jason Grumet said. “It’s going to require a kind of social commitment along the lines we’ve not seen in this country since World War II.”
Added Gene Sperling, a Clinton adviser, “It can’t be an all-or-nothing proposition. Senator Clinton has a lot of proposals about what you can do as the executive from day one going forward.”
No position on Lieberman-Warner
McCain also is not wedded to the cap-and-trade bill he introduced in January 2007 with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) that seeks to cut U.S. emissions 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. “When he introduced that bill, the floor statement was pretty clear that this was an ongoing process,” Holtz-Eakin said. “He wasn’t so much committed to the bill as to an issue.”
Several climate proposals have been introduced in Congress since Lieberman and McCain teamed up, including a more stringent Lieberman proposal that includes Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) as the lead co-sponsor. “The Lieberman-Warner is a good bill,” Holtz-Eakin said of the legislation due on the Senate floor this June. “It’s not his intention to suggest anything different.”
But Holtz-Eakin said that does not mean McCain will be a guaranteed “yes” vote.
“We don’t take positions on Senate legislation given it will change,” he said. “He’s going to realistically need to have time to study the bill. It’s premature.”
Turning to some cap-and-trade specifics, McCain does have concerns about the idea of using a complete 100 percent auction for emission credits. While McCain’s views remain static on the topic, Holtz-Eakin said the Arizona Republican wants to make sure allowance distribution takes into account international competition for U.S. businesses and also how to distribute costs across the economy.
McCain also continues to support growth in nuclear power. Pressed to explain what beyond a cap-and-trade program would be needed, Holtz-Eakin replied, “He wants to see the use of nukes. The ultimate policy proposal will be designed to make sure that’s true.”
McCain is planning several environmentally themed speeches later this year as the general election campaign picks up steam—though no firm dates have been set.
The four-term senator also is trying to brandish his foreign policy credentials this week with visits to Iraq, Israel and Europe.
McCain, Lieberman and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) visited British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London yesterday to talk about a number of issues, including international climate negotiations aimed at getting a new treaty that can succeed the Kyoto Protocol.
“I am convinced that if we work at it, we will be able to convince India and China that it is in their interest to be part of a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” McCain told reporters outside Brown’s 10 Downing Street office. “I believe that we can achieve a global agreement.”
Keeping the focus on climate negotiations, McCain also visited with Stavros Dimas, the top European Commission climate official. And echoing aides to Obama and Clinton, Holtz-Eakin acknowledged that McCain is considering sending staff to the annual U.N. climate conference this December in Poznan, Poland, if he wins the election.
“We have certainly contemplated it,” Holtz-Eakin said.
Climate negotiators have given themselves a 2009 deadline for completing a new post-Kyoto agreement—a schedule some see as difficult to meet given the time it will take for a new U.S. president to get his or her staff and policies in place.
Asked to comment on the post-Kyoto deadline, Holtz-Eakin replied, “Saying anything very definitive about meeting a target that is 11 months into the first term when you don’t have any control in between is really hard. We’ll certainly be interested in moving this process forward as quick as possible.”
Following the one-vote failure on Wednesday of S. Amdt 3983 to H.R. 5140, the Senate stimulus package that contained $5.6 billion in “green” incentives, various environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, called Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for missing the vote.
Today, Executive Director Carl Pope blistered the office response to member calls in a blog post entitled John McCain Should Be Ashamed.
Immediately, people begin calling and emailing me, saying, “The Senator’s office says he voted for clean energy, and that your alert is wrong.” We check. He didn’t. We call his office. Stunningly, his staff has been coached to mislead callers. “That’s not true at all,” they say, “he voted for the bill yesterday.” Well, he voted, yesterday, but for a different bill. However we phrase the question, we get a lie. “No, if he had voted for the bill, it would not have passed. That was purely procedural.” But McCain’s staff knows that if cloture had been invoked, passage of the bill would then only require 51 votes, and the bill with clean energy would have passed. [Ed.- emphasis added.]