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A '50-50' chance that the Senate passes a climate change bill this year?

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Steve Pearlstein thinks there's a "50-50" chance that the Senate passes a major energy bill this year.

Many in the environmental community have come around to Kerry's view that this is the best shot they are going to have anytime soon at passing comprehensive energy and climate change legislation. And parts of the business community have come around to Graham's view that they can't afford another decade of uncertainty over regulatory issues, particularly with an activist Democrat in control of the regulatory agencies, just as they cannot afford to alienate an entire generation that has a keen interest in the environment and doesn't look kindly on their intransigence. [...]

Although the Senate bill retains the cap-and-trade structure of the House bill, it would apply, at least initially, only to electric power producers, with other manufacturers coming under the regime after 2016. The oil and gas industry would be handled under a separate regime that requires refiners to buy emissions permits for all the carbon contained in the gasoline or other fuels they sell -- in effect, a fee or tax on carbon. The amount of the fee would be determined by the price at which carbon emissions allowances are bought or sold by utilities on open exchanges. And while the fee would almost certainly be passed on to consumers in the form of higher fuel prices, most of it would be rebated through payroll and other tax credits. By paying more for energy and less for taxes, the idea is that Americans will use less energy and wind up with roughly the same amount of money to spend on everything else.

Right now, Lindsey Graham (pictured) is the only Republican attached to the effort. But according to Steve, Graham and Kerry are targeting "George Voinovich of Ohio and Richard Lugar of Indiana, whose Midwestern states would fare even better under the Senate bill than the House-passed version; Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, who will surely like all of the goodies for the nuclear power industry included in the bill; Susan Collins of Maine, whose idea for rebating to consumers money collected by the government through the sale of carbon-emission rights to electric utilities and oil refiners is a central feature of the Senate compromise; and Scott Brown of Massachusetts, the newbie senator who so far has lived up to his promise to be an 'independent' Republican."

Color me skeptical. I think the right wing is just too committed to the idea that taxes are always and everywhere bad (even if they're rebated) and that global warming is a hoax Al Gore dreamed up to annoy SUV drivers. But we'll see. The bill will be unveiled in the next few weeks.

Photo credit: By Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post

By Ezra Klein  |  April 16, 2010; 5:22 PM ET
Categories:  Climate Change  
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Next: Reconciliation

Comments

Ain't gonna happen.

1) There is no political capital left for this huge tax increase that raises energy prices from 20-40%. People were fooled once by all of the tricks played on them with the HealhCare bill. They understand what the progressives are trying to do. They won't be fooled again.

2) Inhofe counts only 24 votes of the die-hard socialists that are willing to drink the Kool-Aid. It's political suicide.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | April 16, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Won't happen.

To do so would take an act of tremendous political courage.

Won't happen.

Posted by: nisleib | April 16, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, what's up with Cantwell-Collins cap-and-cash?

Posted by: chrismealy | April 16, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

I second Chris Mealy - is Cantwell-Collins dead? Has that been compromised into the Graham bill?

It would have been nice to keep it simple - it would have had the advantage of (a) making it harder for Republicans to lie about and (b) actually keeping it simple and doing what it's supposed to do. (instead of giving away carbon handouts to companies that lobby hard enough - a legitimate criticism for Republicans to make...)

Posted by: madjoy | April 16, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Personally, I encourage the Democratic Party to associate itself with a climate tax before the elections. A VAT (national sales tax) would be good Democratic Party policy, too, as would an additional tax $20,000 credit for those who buy new faucets [in DC homes valued at $450,000 or above].

Such policies would help reduce the deficit, reduce energy consumption, and reduce global warming.

Say, has anybody got a bar graph which compares the greenhouse gasses produced by humanity with the greenhouse gasses produced by the latest volcanic eruption? Such a graph would be helpful to show just how much humans are contributing to global warming and the melting of glaciers.

Posted by: rmgregory | April 16, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

A lot of recent statements from Senate Republicans seem indicate that they are rethinking the "no to everything" strategy they tried on healthcare. With an election coming up, I suspect moderates will be more willing to break the party line.

As it is, incumbent Republicans are going to have no accomplishments to point at. And their entire strategy relies on voters having short memories; forgetting the negativity and unreasonableness of the last years so that they can recast themselves a centrists.

That strategy can't work if they don't "walk the walk" at least a little.

Posted by: zosima | April 16, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe that Republicans won't consider trading a gas tax for a tax reduction on work (say the flat Medicare tax). Even if you don't believe in global warming, you're shifting taxes from productive labor to (primarily) consumption. What boneheads.

Posted by: justin84 | April 16, 2010 9:33 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: heathergraham91 | April 17, 2010 4:10 AM | Report abuse

global warming, volcanic ash: fake crisis, meet real crisis. Has anyone noticed that all the trumped up national crises (climate change, bad healthcare, obesity) have made it difficult to notice or talk about a true crisis?

Posted by: truck1 | April 17, 2010 8:23 AM | Report abuse

The Republicans' entire political strategy for the 2010 midterms is to scream that the Dems are bringing socialism, fascism, and the caliphate to America.

Allowing a major piece of legislation or two pass with some Republicans in support cuts against that strategy, and may undermine the narrative altogether. Result: the GOP will be whipping very, very hard to prevent even a single defection.

Posted by: Sophomore | April 17, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

" global warming is a hoax..."

No it is getting warmer, with the CO2 effect. But that may not be the only factor to consider. If something happens in space, we may need the warmth from CO2 to moderate an ice age. How can you be so sure that you know all the factors and all the futures we have to get ready to face?

I thought the age of faith was over.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | April 17, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Wonder how much CO2 has been released by volcanoes and other natural means as opposed to the increas due to human activities.....

hmmmmm....

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | April 18, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

It ought to be easy to have a compromise wherein the proceeds from a carbon tax are rebated in full to taxpayers at the end of the year. Republican economists would certainly favor such a system. The question is whether or not Republicans in general are ever willing to vote for anything.

Posted by: jeffwacker | April 18, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

If one buys into the arthopogenic theory and how it's significant, that would be an idea.

The real issue is the Democrats would never go for it. They want the money. Everything else is a sales job to get the money.

They would never agree to rebate the money.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | April 18, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Personally believe it's more like a 90% chance that a climate bill will be passed as part of on overll economic stimulus package to provide green jobs to the nations unemployed... Twenty million new openings for rickshaw drivers would be an immense boon to the nations economy.

Posted by: nemosnemesis | April 18, 2010 10:10 PM | Report abuse

"The Republicans' entire political strategy for the 2010 midterms is to scream that the Dems are bringing socialism, fascism, and the caliphate to America."

The TRUTH is always a good strategy.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | April 18, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

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