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Senate Takes Another Crack at Climate Bill, Obama Open to Offshore Drilling

emissions-4Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), along with Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), have made several concessions in the climate bill to get more support from industries, running the risk of losing support from environmental groups that have been the biggest backers of the climate bill, reports The Hill. The biggest issues of contention include pollution permits, pre-emption, offshore drilling, natural gas versus coal and fees for oil companies.

The Senate bill is expected to be introduced soon after Congress returns from its two-week recess.

The Financial Times reports that the bill includes plans to cut carbon emissions from 2005 levels by 17 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, with separate caps on utilities and manufacturers. The Obama administration officially pledged that the United States would cut its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

The federal government would also sell separate pollution permits to each sector at a “hard price collar” to limit allowances from $10 to $30 per ton, reports Financial Times. Carbon caps would be imposed on utilities in 2012 followed by manufacturers in 2016. The bill also includes a petrol tax that would likely be passed on to consumers.

A major point of debate is how much power the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will have to control emissions under the Clean Air Act. Businesses that support “certainty” on emissions regulations say they want a federal greenhouse gas law that “pre-empts” action at the EPA to regulate carbon through the Clean Air Act as well as state efforts to control CO2 emissions, which is a big issue for the State of California, reports The Hill.

In February, several industry groups, conservative think tanks, lawmakers and three states filed 16 lawsuits against the EPA’s endangerment finding, which allows the agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Other concerns come from the natural gas industry, which maintains that subsidies for coal and renewable energy could hinder its growth, and the oil industry’s issue with pollution allowances.

Another big compromise issue is offshore drilling, primarily part of the Republican’s agenda. However, many Democratic coastal states and environmentalists are against the expansion of offshore drilling.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is nearing a decision to open up areas along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and gas drilling, which would be a welcome compromise to oil companies, reports the New York Times.

As expected, it could be a huge problem for passing the climate legislation. The Miami Herald reports that ten Senate Democrats from coastal states said they won’t support a climate and energy bill if it includes expansion of offshore oil and natural gas drilling.

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3 thoughts on “Senate Takes Another Crack at Climate Bill, Obama Open to Offshore Drilling

  1. Single-issue-related opposition to this initiative threatens to kill the whole thing. Special interest group A is opposed to provision X, group B doesn’t like provision Y, etc.

    For decades, even centuries, this government has managed to pass legislation, and to take other actions, based on COMPROMISE. It is messy and imperfect, but at least something gets done.

    We badly need something to get done on clean energy and climate change legislation. Senators HAVE to understand that they can’t stand on one principle and thereby refuse to participate. And especially, they can’t be allowed to act in a manner that holds up the entire process.

    Such behavior flies in the face of the American style and form of government, I sincerely hope that it will guarantee a quick exit from the Senate for those who wrongly choose to indulge in such a poorly thought out course of action.

    And finally, all those special interest groups also need to step back and THINK for a change. Including the oil, gas, and coal lobbies. Up until now, those and other industry groups have only lobbied to protect and expand their own narrow financial interests, AT THE EXPENSE OF SOCIETY IN GENERAL. It is time to punish such lobbying efforts. We, as consumers, should start boycotting such corporations to whatever extent we can.

    Let’s show our Senators, and the lobbies that constantly whisper in their ears, that we as a society are fed up with such behaviors. Business as usual has got to change.

    Just like our climate is.

  2. Bravo Doug! Nothing is going to get done on this important issue without compromoise. I applaud Obama for having the guts to throw the opposition some of what it wants, in an effort to get some sort of bi-partisan support on this. Environmentalists, of which I am one, need to keep their eye on the big picture – which is a comprehensive green energy plan.

  3. Doug – I agree with you 100% that lobbying is done based on [short-sighted] and “narrow financial interests, at the expense of society.” I would add that the purpose of lobbying is exactly that, and that corporations are chartered to create profits for shareholders. A shareholder group from Intel recently got sustainability added to the company charter, demonstrating how important it is for owners to make change. (https://www.environmentalleader.com/2010/03/31/intel-amends-charter-sustainability-now-a-fiduciary-duty/)

    Finally, boycotting oil companies is unrealistic, as the reality would be a sliver of society stuck without transport, and perhaps slightly lower prices for those who don’t boycott due to softened demand. Boycott with your wallet: ride your bike, take the bus, use a car share. Declining revenues make managers move.

    Like I said, I agree with your estimation of how lobbying is done 100%, and that under the strategy they are pursuing, I wouldn’t expect them to do anything else.

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