Senators Cut Climate Change Rules and Renewables From Energy Bill

By Andrew Moseman | July 23, 2010 9:33 am

HReidThere will be no carbon cap-and-trade provision in this summer’s energy legislation in the Senate. Nor will there be a renewable energy standard (RES)—a mandate that a certain percentage of national energy come from renewable sources. Those are the two major losses for climate-watchers today as Senator Harry Reid and other Democrats announced they would drastically scale back their energy proposals in the face of what looks like an non-winnable fight before the 2010 midterm elections.

Instead, the Senate will consider a much smaller bill before the August recess.

The measure would include money for home energy-efficiency retrofits, for encouraging natural-gas-powered vehicles and for land and water conservation, Reid said [Los Angeles Times].

So what now for the more ambitious ideas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adopt renewable energy technologies?


David Moulton, director of climate policy at the Wilderness Society, said renewable energy supporters and companies desperately want the shot in the arm an RES could provide. But they might not get it without a compromise proposal.

One way to win additional votes for the measure could be to develop a “big tent bipartisan approach” that would expand the renewable electricity standard to a “clean electricity standard” including nuclear, carbon capture and storage and natural gas [The New York Times].

Push in other directions

Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman have produced separate bills that specifically target power utilities for emissions reductions, and that bill might continue.

Reid left open the possibility that efforts to cap carbon emissions in the electric power sector could resume this fall. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), an architect of Senate climate policies, vowed to continue pushing. “Harry Reid, today, is committed to giving us that opportunity, that open door over the next weeks, days, months, whatever it takes to find those 60 votes,” Kerry said. “The work will continue every single day” [The New York Times].

Use the EPA

Obama has pushed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take unilateral action if Congress fails to pass a bill. The EPA has begun issuing rules to cut emissions from cars and requiring power plants to have permits to emit carbon dioxide [Reuters].

However, given that EPA leadership changes from administration to administration, the unclear limits of its authority, and the feeling that Congress ought to make the rules on this important issue, most people see this as an unsatisfying answer. Congressional Republicans even tried to explicitly block the EPA‘s power to regulate greenhouse emissions, which the 2007 Supreme Court case Massachusetts v. EPA upheld. That effort last month fell short, but members of Congress may try to revive the issue, fearing the EPA will act now that the legislative branch has failed to do so.

Related Content:
80beats: Skip the Political Babbling: Here’s What the Kerry-Lieberman Climate Bill Says
80beats: Climate Bill Passes in the House, Moves on to Senate
DISCOVER: It’s Getting Hot in Here: The Big Battle Over Climate Science, interviews with Judith Curry & Michael Mann
DISCOVER: The State of the Climate—And of Climate Science

Image: Wikimedia Commons

  • Idlewilde

    Okay, now we’re officially screwed. As if two oil spills wasn’t enough…

  • Osso

    Cap and trade is a republican styled notion. A new market, set up and running by and for the private sector, seems the perfect foil to the socialist practices they claim to hate. The only reason republicans were so opposed is because it came from a democrat’s administration.

    The herd should see something so obvious. What’s going to happen when congress flips in November? The repub’s will so F__ up the U.S. that Obama gets another term in 012.

  • Rhacodactylus

    Ug, it seems to me that the Republicans are relentlessly effective at keeping any legislation I want from passing, while the Democrats are utterly incapable of passing any legislation I want. At the end of the day, it’s pretty much six of one, half a dozen of the other.

  • Michael Fish

    Whoever is in charge of assuring Obama’s re-nomination for the office of President for the Democratic party in 2012 must be quaking in his or her boots. I can’t wait for someone to challenge for the nomination.

  • scott

    Rhac – You are so right, the dems are incapable of doing much, even when in control. Big corporations perhaps have more power as they donate to and influence both parties. Humans are/can be, naturally, greedy and lazy, if something is working that is making a few guys billions, they will do whatever they can to secure the status quo and resist any form of change that will cost them. I think its a natural instinct, as well as a cultural phenomenon to crave and hold on to power and material items, even at the expense of others or the environment. Worse than using coal and oil for electricity and transporation, I think the “junk goods/fast foods” production, distribution and disposal is much worse for the long term health of the planet: Wasteful plastic use, toys, packaging – most of the junk people buy and toss out from Wal-Mart or Target and all the ships and trucks that haul all of that stuff around. Fertilizers so lawns can stay green, pesticides so people wont see a spider, millions of tons of sunscreens draining into lakes and the oceans, tons of plastic flip flops that last one season only to disentigrate in the oceans. Where I live, the ignorance I see from the general population, their lack of concern and knowledge about the environment is much worse than the politicians and corp execs as the consumer choices trickle back up and influence policy.

  • 34RB21CB

    When will the republicans actually try to help the American people?

  • Nobody

    34RB21CB – I don’t think the term ‘republicans’ makes sense in that context.

  • Osso

    Our President did more for science in 100 days than W did in 8 years. This is a science site- show me how the party of no has proposed, supported, or even tolerated the secular advances in science that Obama has championed.

    We don’t have a totalitarian state. If dem’s won’t back the Prez, should he just stop trying? It’s not just a black thing- Hillary wouldn’t get any love either if she sat behind the big desk.

  • Door Curtains

    oil spills can really mess up the environment, i hope we can find a very good solution to control oil spills “-,


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