Climate-Change Group Paves Middle Ground
A bipartisan climate-change bill to be unveiled this week is heavily influenced by a proposal from the nonpartisan National Commission on Energy Policy, a top Senate aide tells U.S. News.
The NCEP plan, drafted earlier this year, has called for a 15 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, paving a middle ground between liberals (such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer, who are calling for more dramatic cuts) and conservative Sen. James Inhofe, who has called global warming a hoax. But the NCEP proposal does contain what many liberals consider a poison pill, a safety valve that would limit the price per ton of greenhouse gas emissions to $10.
Details of the actual legislation, cosponsored by the powerful duo of Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Arlen Specter, are still unknown. But the new bill will raise the intensity in a fractious Senate that is seeing growing Republican support for restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation comes on the heels of an announcement by Sens. Joe Lieberman and John Warner that they will craft a global warming bill of their own.
The Bingaman-Specter bill, which will come out first, "will have plenty of other cosponsors" on both sides of the aisle, says the aide. That sense of cooperation will likely extend to parliamentary play as well. Although Bingaman is chair of the Energy Committee, there's an "excellent chance" the proposal will be channeled through Boxer's Environment and Public Works Committee, says an aide.
While few believe that the Bingaman-Specter bill will be the final answer to the contentious global warming debate, environmental lobbyists characterize the bill as a serious bid to develop a successful framework.
"Bingaman has made it clear from the beginning he's trying to find a middle ground," Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch tells U.S. News. "He's not trying to carve out some Utopian solution."
That middle ground will be key to obtaining the votes necessary to break an all-but-certain filibuster of any bill that lays down mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions.
"An increasing number of Republicans are sending signals that they'll vote for the right bill," O'Donnell says. "But I think we're still a long way from figuring out what the right bill is."