Senator Kerry's, Lieberman's and Graham's Climate Change "Framework" Lacks Substance

Senator Kerry's, Lieberman's and Graham's Climate Change "Framework" Lacks Substance

December 12, 2009 18:15
by J. Wylie Donald

In a bid to give some muscle to United States climate change negotiators in Copenhagen, Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman unveiled Thursday a "framework" for a Senate climate change bill. See http://www.scribd.com/doc/23946492/12-10-09-Kerry-Graham-Lieberman-Climate-Framework  The thinking is that U.S. credibility took a big hit when the Kyoto Protocol died in the Senate. This time, any agreement will be informed by the position of the Senate, communicated to the world at large.

 

So what exactly was this position? The envisioned bill will do the following:

 

Produce better jobs and cleaner air.

Secure energy independence.

Create regulatory predictability.

Protect consumers.

Encourage nuclear power.

Ensure a future for coal.

Revive American manufacturing by creating jobs.

Create wealth for domestic agriculture and forestry.

Regulate the carbon market.

 

Does this move the ball forward? I am skeptical. Every one of these subjects will have proponents and opponents who will lobby for their particular interest. To take just two: energy independence and regulatory predictability.

 

1. Energy independence. If independence were that simple, it would have been figured out sometime in the last four decades since the oil embargos of 1967 and 1973. But instead, America's dependence on foreign oil has only increased. If America is going to be energy independent, that might mean increased use of coal (critics there), or nuclear power (critics there), or ethanol (critics there), or tar sands (critics there). If you read sober scientific assessments of the environmental impact of any nationally meaningful collection of solar arrays, you see literally millions of acres overlain by panels, facilities and conduit (more critics there). In short, everyone (except oil exporters) is for energy independence; the issue is how to get there. The framework offers little to assist in that regard.

 

2. Regulatory predictability. With California's AB32 and RGGI, the States initiated climate change regulation in this country. Two things were important to States in taking the lead. First, they were able to order climate change regulation in accordance with their priorities, not someone else's. Second, they were able to tap a new source of revenue. The framework (properly I believe) wants to take all that over. Nevertheless, it is exceedingly unlikely that the States will go quietly into the night and just let Uncle Sam do whatever he pleases.

 

It is trite (but that doesn't make it untrue) to say: the devil is in the details. That is exactly the case with climate change laws and regulations. The framework contains plenty of rhetoric* but little more than that. What business needs are the new rules of the game. That is the framework that really needs to be published.

 

*Speaking of rhetoric, we have a long way to go. The Senators quote Jim Rogers on the need to "ignite" a revolution and put the recession in the "rear-view mirror." Too much ignition and rear-view-mirror-vehicles are what got us into this mess in the first place. Maybe some new metaphors (to go with the new rules) are needed too.

Climate Change

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