A moment in time for the cap-and-trade movement
A window of opportunity may be closing for Democrats to pass cap-and-trade energy bill.
Mon, Jun 28, 2010 at 02:55 PM
OUT OF HIS HANDS: President Obama waits on the Senate for movement on energy policy. (Photo: The White House)
“This is our moment. This is our time.”
Barack Obama said this at countless rallies, campaign events and fundraisers during his campaign across the nation in 2008.
By landslide margins, voters voted their issues. Many voted based on the economy, some on foreign policy. And a large number of environmentalists voted for Barack Obama.
Two years later, for those seeking an energy policy that will limit carbon emissions, that “moment” Obama spoke of on the campaign trail, is here — yet perilously close to melting away. The mid-term elections are 127 days away. Congress is scheduled to be in session for about half of that time. So, the question for those wanting a policy shift is clear: When can this get done?
It’s the same question those voting on healthcare may have asked themselves while both houses of Congress played political volleyball with an issue near and dear to their hearts.
Next week, Congress will take a week off to celebrate Independence Day. From Aug. 9 through Sept. 10, senators and congressmen will vacate Washington for their home states; many for the campaign trail. Polls show Democrats are in trouble come mid-term time. And while the Senate may remain in Democratic control, with each passing day the term "Speaker Boehner" inches closer to becoming part of the vernacular on Capitol Hill.
With Republican support for a carbon market being icy, this may prove to be the moment for Democrats to make a move on a climate bill. There simply won’t be any more chances. The iceberg is melting, or whatever climate metaphor you want to make.
On Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will begin working on the “Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act”. Essentially, the bill will reform the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and the regulation of drilling practices on the outer continental shelf. The bill is expected to move through committee swiftly because it was sponsored by the committee’s chairman, Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and ranking member, Lisa Murkowski (R-Ark.) It will be an easy political victory that came at the cost of a massive oil spill.
So, when the Senate and House return from vacation on July 12, and completion of the relief well is only a month away (at the earliest), will that be the time? Will that be the moment for carbon regulation and a greener energy policy?
Some reports say Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada will attempt to combine the oil-drilling bill with a cap-based carbon bill. Reid’s maneuver would require only a simple majority of senators for passage. It may be a useful wedge issue for Democrats, as they could try to connect Republicans to the spill.
But even preliminary discussion of Reid’s maneuver reveals a sense of urgency and desperation. If there were 60 votes, Reid never would have brought it up. Furthermore it shows that isn’t enough support to pass the recently unveiled Kerry-Lieberman bill. If Reid had another 59 votes and wasn’t guaranteed to get a Republican filibuster, the thought never would have crossed his mind.
So is this it? The big moment? That special time?
For those who worked on campaigns to move environmental issues up the political ladder; for those who say cap and trade is the only way to move away from fossil fuels; does this feel like you thought it would?
Think about it: A fast track bill, tacked onto an oil regulation bill following the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history.
This is our moment? This is our time?