In a procedural vote of 74 to 14 the Senate began the process on Monday of bringing the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act to a full floor debate.
It seems a foregone conclusion that the bill will not pass this year, but in the spirit of the deliberative process, it will at least make everyone take a stand on the issue.
One of the principal objections to the bill is the purported “economic damage” it will cause, with opponents using hot-button terms like “high energy prices” and “rising taxes”.
Despite the enormous cost his administration has projected years and decades into the future, George Bush advised congress to be
very careful about running up enormous costs to future generations”
Even if the bill could manage to get past the senate this year, president Bush has vowed to veto it if it does.
Proponents of the bill are encouraged that any debate about climate change is progressing in the Senate, seeing it as an essential first step to the essential role government must play in dealing with climate change and a new energy economy;
We may not get it done this year, but if not we start next year just a few steps from the finish line
David Doniger, director of climate policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said, acknowledging the current debate is just the start of a long struggle getting climate change policy enacted.
As Carl Pope writes today in the Huffington Post, one job the Senate has before it is shifting its perception of the energy issue. There will always be idealogues lost in their own insistence that facts don’t count for much and thus see no problem in making up their own (like James Inhofe claiming the bill will bring gas prices to $8 a gallon when even the Bush administration says at worst it will raise gas prices 50 cents a gallon by 2020). But Congress generally fits policy around energy producers instead of consumers. The vast engine of American wealth and prosperity is driven by businesses that consume energy, not produce it. I’m not interested in buying a barrel of oil or a lump of coal. I need what they provide – energy.
There is no doubt that the economics of running an oil company in 2050 will be substantially different than it is now. With that reality comes hard changes for producers and consumers alike. But the reality of our energy and climate future will not go away by ignoring it or striving to conserve the status quo while denying the true costs in so doing. The risk is far too great to do nothing.
“The times, they are a-changin”. The task of the Senate is to embrace that fact and look into the future instead of clinging to the past.
The Lieberman-Warner act may be flawed, it may hold little chance of passing into law without substantial tweaking or full scale revision – and certainly not until there is a new president – but this is where it starts as we begin the essential transformation of the global energy economy.
The whole world is watching.