Representatives of the coal, oil, and gas lobby met yesterday at the United States Energy Association’s “State of the Energy Industry” conference at the National Press Club in Washington. They agreed that Lieberman-Warner may be the best legislation they can hope for, especially if issues like polar bear habitat set the standard for legislation.
Katherine Ling reports for E&E Daily that David Parker, president and CEO of the American Gas Association, said “Who would you rather have writing a bill in the Senate? I might guess it may set a tone for business to fully work with the Senate this year.” He continued that “the polar bear habitat is going to really drive this [climate change] debate. We all have a big education job to do and I think we need to do it collectively.”
Bill Scher has further commentary at Blog for Our Future.
While most panelists agreed it was not likely that a full bill capping greenhouse gas emissions would pass this session, they said a great deal could be accomplished in laying the groundwork this year.
Tom Kuhn, president and CEO of Edison Electric Institute, predicted there will be a floor vote in the Senate this year on a climate bill. “No matter what happens on those votes, that will set the marker for what we do in the future,” he said, especially if there is White House involvement.
David Parker, president and CEO of the American Gas Association, agreed with Kuhn. Despite a general disagreement the energy industries have with the climate bill sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.), he said, future legislation could be even harder on the industry.
“Warner is retiring this year, and then the question is, ‘Who comes into play?’” Parker said. Potentially, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) – who both favor greater emission limits than those in the Lieberman-Warner bill – could lead the next attempt to pass climate change legislation under a Democratic president, he said.
“Who would you rather have writing a bill in the Senate? I might guess it may set a tone for business to fully work with the Senate this year,” he said.
Achieving workable legislation will require educating policymakers and the public a great deal more on energy markets, panelists said.
Parker said he was worried that “the polar bear habitat is going to really drive this [climate change] debate. We all have a big education job to do and I think we need to do it collectively.”
The Energy Bill: A Hero and a Villain
President Bush has just signed into law an energy bill that could have been even better but still remains an impressive achievement. The long struggle to produce that bill yielded the usual quotient of heroes and villains, but two deserve special mention:
John Dingell, who could have been a villain but chose to be a hero; and Mary Landrieu, who could have been a hero but chose to be a villain.
Mr. Dingell was a most unlikely hero. A Michigan Democrat and a reliable defender of the automobile industry, he had long resisted efforts to mandate new fuel efficiency standards, which had not been updated for more than 30 years.
But there has always been a softer, “greener” side to this crusty octogenarian that people often overlook. An architect of the original Clean Water Act of 1972, he cares a lot about wetlands preservation, endangered species and other environmental causes. He is also a fairly recent convert to the climate change issue, describing the global warming threat with phrases like “Hannibal is at the gates.”
So when Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, made a personal pledge to upgrade fuel efficiency standards, Mr. Dingell agreed, in exchange for one or two modest concessions, to get out of the way. He did more than that. When environmentalists complained that the Senate’s mandate for a huge increase in ethanol could threaten forests, wetlands and conservation areas, Mr. Dingell made sure the final bill contained the necessary safeguards. He also insisted on a provision requiring that ethanol from corn or any other source produce a net benefit in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
Ms. Landrieu was an altogether different story. The Louisiana Democrat broke ranks with her Democratic colleagues and gave President Bush and the Republican leadership the one-vote margin they needed to strike a key provision that would have rescinded about $12 billion in tax breaks for the oil industry and shifted the money to research and development of cleaner sources of energy.
The White House argued that these tax breaks were necessary to insure the oil industry’s economic health and to protect consumers at the pump. Given industry’s $100 billion-per-year profits, these arguments were absurd on their face, but Ms. Landrieu promoted both of them and added one of her own: The energy bill was “one-sided policymaking” that left “Louisiana footing the bill.”
Never mind that the rest of the country is footing the bill for the repair and restoration of Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. That is a just and worthy cause and one that the nation is willing to help pay for. But isn’t reducing oil dependency and global warming emissions by rewarding traditional fossil fuels a bit less, and rewarding newer, cleaner fuels a bit more, also a just and worthy cause? One that Louisiana could help pay for? That is something Ms. Landrieu might ask herself the next time she puts her state’s interest ahead of the nation’s.