The post mortems on culprits — or, depending on one’s perspective, heroes — in the demise of the U.S. Senate’s cap-and-trade bill began as they usually do, with finger-pointing.
Where it may end, no one knows. The plug was officially pulled when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat facing his own tough re-election, concluded there was no way to get to the 60 votes needed to bring closure to an inevitable Republican filibuster. By then, most observers had the legislative effort on life support, and that just barely.
The votes just weren’t there, not only with solid Republican opposition but also with some all-but-certain Democratic opponents, primarily from midwestern industrialized and coal states.
Democrats blamed Republicans. Conservatives blamed liberals. Blue states blamed red states …. Tall folks faulted shorter ones. You get the picture. It wasn’t pretty.
Joining in the fray, The New York Times on a single day carried three op-ed pieces, collectively worthy of review for those wanting some insights into how not to pass a climate bill. The three are online here, here, and here.
|Assessing blame for collapse of cap-and-trade in U.S. Senate.|
NASA/GISS scientist Jim Hansen, long convinced that cap-and-trade wasn’t the way to go in combating carbon dioxide emissions in the first place, had his own take on the collapse. Blogger Keith Kloor, at his Collide-a-Scape site, provided Hansen’s elaboration on why he saw the Senate developments as a “great opportunity.” But Kloor might do well not to hold his breath while he wonders “if any mainstream advocates — many who seem to think that the U.S. Congress has now put the planet on an unalterable path to climate catastrophe — will chuck their defeatist mentality and embrace Hansen’s view.”
None of those perspectives, however, squared perfectly with Michael Shellenberger of The Breakthrough Institute, also no fan of cap-and-trade. “I think that this is the end of cap-and-trade for a long time,” Shellenberger said. “It’s the fourth time it’s failed since 2003.”
In a mass e-mail and online posting, one of cap-and-trade’s strongest organizational backers, Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense Fund President, vowed “We’re not going anywhere.” But Krupp characterized the Senate impasse as “disappointing” and cautioned that the log jam in the Senate will have “very serious consequences.”
EDF will “continue to fight to prevent the catastrophic threat of run-away global warming.” But nothing in his e-mail blast could be seen as being optimistic about enactment of major legislation any time soon.
For Climate Progress blogger Joe Romm, there was little doubt that the Obama White House carried much of the responsibility for the Senate impasse.
“It was the WH’s job to deliver, say, 55-57 Democrats — and then apply whatever carrots and sticks were needed to move a few GOP Senators,” Romm wrote. “Sure, it still might not have worked … but not trying at all was the only certain route to failure.”
He continued: “I can attest to the fact that the entire environmental and clean energy and progressive political community worked round-the-clock over the past year. If the White House and Obama had worked as hard on this most important of issues, we very likely would have had a price on carbon, I believe.”
None of which, of course, is likely to salve the gaping wounds of those House members who last fall, not without substantial prodding, backed the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill as it squeaked through the House with scarcely a Republican hand shake. Now left licking their wounds in what’s expected to be a tough election year, they’re left wondering “Why even bother?”
Next time substantive climate change comes before the U.S. Congress? On that, all parties seem to agree: It won’t be soon, and it certainly won’t be any easier.