Look for moderate senators to take the lead on energy legislation. 

It seems this week's discussion with key senators and President Obama was the last gasp for ghost of the Kerry-Lieberman-Graham climate bill.

By the time the presidential meeting was held, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was long removed from publicly endorsing the bill which he helped author. By the meeting’s end, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) made clear that major compromises would have to be made for any progress to be made on an energy bill. 

A report in Politico points out that having Kerry lead the charge for an energy and climate bill was an unnatural choice. Kerry sits on neither the Energy and Natural Resources Committee nor the Environment and Public Works Committee. In an environment where vote-getting is at a premium, Kerry doesn’t have the connections on either of the committees the bill is likelyto go through. The same is true for Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), whose sponsorship of the bill didn’t seem to attract many voters.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have combined moderate forces to draft a bill that would cap carbon emissions, but it hasn’t gotten much traction. The only real traction is coming from a version from Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) with a little help from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Bingaman chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee; Murkowski is the ranking member. Already, the two have worked a bill to transform offshore drilling regulation by reorganizing the Minerals Management Service (MMS). Bingaman has also worked with Murkowski to move forward on a bill that calls for specific portions of the nation’s energy portfolio to be renewable by specific dates. But there is already talk of Bingaman drafting another bill that would limit emissions from utility companies.

But the strongest bill to come out of the Energy and Natural Resource Committee will be much weaker than anything from Kerry-Lieberman-Graham. The three-headed cap-and-trade bill brought with it a three-headed regulatory framework. It limited emissions not just from the utilities industry, but two other areas classified as transportation and heavy industry. With each classification came specific targets, allowances and prices. 

The moderate Bingaman bill will regulate a third of the industries Kerry’s bill did, but it’s about a hundred times more likely to pass.