Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Genuine or Greenwashing: Warner's Climate Bill

After Sen. John Warner's announcement last week that he won't seek another term, National Wildlife Federation President Larry Schweiger released this statement:

Senator Warner is poised to end his nearly 30-year Senate career tackling the biggest challenge of our time: global warming. This year, Senator Warner has taken a leadership role to advance legislation to address global warming as a national security priority. He has recently outlined a bi-partisan proposal with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) that would reduce the pollution causing global warming and provide resources to help protect the Chesapeake Bay and other fish and wildlife habitat from climate change. The two senators lead a Senate subcommittee that can advance action on this critical issue this Congress.
No topic splits environmentalists right now like the Warner-Lieberman bill being drafted in the Senate. Some groups are hopeful Warner-Lieberman will be tough enough that it's worth supporting, while others think Warner-Lieberman will be so soft it deserves to die in committee. They want the bill sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) -- the toughest bill in the Senate -- or nothing.

Marc Guenther at Huffington Post recently called Warner a lynchpin on climate change legislation:

Warner could be the key to getting a bill out of the Senate Environment Committee, where Democrats hold only a one-vote edge. He comes from state where, it's safe assume, there are strong, conflicting opinions about climate change; the commonwealth includes both coal mines and the coastline along the Chesapeake Bay. But he's also a national security geek, and he has said that he's worried that global warming could lead to environmental refugees and political instability.

Meanwhile, to deal with fears that carbon caps will damage the economy, four Senators -- Republicans Warner and Lindsey Graham of South Caroline and Democrats Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana (the land of oil & gas & Katrina) -- introduced legislation that would aim to protect consumers and business from the potential costs of carbon regulation.

The four senators want to create something called a Carbon Market Efficiency Board, modeled on the Fed, to build some flexibility into the regulatory scheme. This board could ease up on an emissions cap if the economy is suffering, but only by lowering the cap in the future. In effect, it would give industry the freedom to pollute more now so long as it pollutes less later, once economy rebounds. (emphasis added)

Open Left's Matt Stoller has offered the most stinging criticism of Warner-Lieberman (thanks to Lowell for the tip). However, I'm not sure how Matt can say "it's a terrible legislative package coming to the floor in the fall" when we don't know all the details yet.

Some environmentalists counter that it doesn't matter which bill comes up for a vote -- President Bush will surely veto any serious global warming legislation and the Senate doesn't have enough votes to override -- it's the roll call itself that matters. Force all one hundred senators to go on the record on a serious bill. No more equivocating. Do you recognize the settled science or are you an unrepentant denier? Then the voters can be clear about their choices in 2008.

But Matt is right when he says, "We get one bite at this apple." If soft legislation passes and we try to firm it up later, Republican climate change deniers will say, "See? We told you so. They won't be satisfied until the economy is crippled."

Cross-posted from RaisingKaine.com
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