If you are at all interested in energy policy then you should take a half hour, or less if you are a smarty-pants, and read Ryan Lizza’s article in the New Yorker. The article, appropriately titled, “As the World Burns,” outlines in amazing detail the events that lead up to the near passage of a climate bill in Washington as well as the bill’s tragic and sudden demise. Here are a few things I picked up from the article; there’s plenty more to take away from it, but these are my highlights.
1. Lindsey Graham has guts
The South Carolina senator put a lot at risk by jumping into the middle of the climate bill debate. South Carolina isn’t exactly a hotbed of environmental activism and, yes, Graham did stand to gain politically by protecting both domestic drilling and nuclear interests, not to mention becoming the new Maverick of the Senate. But walking around with John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman during these times in Washington is quite the political risk for the southern Republican.
2. EPA’s powers used as a bargaining chip
Time and time again, the New Yorker article points out that “preempting” the EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gases was a card both John Kerry and Lindsey Graham offered to other Republicans in exchange for their support for a cap and trade bill. I thought it showed how members of both parties in the senate aren’t exactly thrilled that power remains out of their hands.
3. T. Boone looks out for T. Boone
While it’s really not surprising, it was entertaining to read how much oilman T. Boone Pickens was in this debate for himself. Democrats acknowledged that getting Pickens on board, be it with a photo opportunity with Al Gore or John Kerry, was important to the process. But, an encounter with Kerry, where the Massachusetts senator explained the details of the new policy while Pickens only focused on getting a natural gas mandate that would benefit him is priceless.
4. Kerry led the charge
While John Kerry ended up failing in getting anything passed, Lizza’s article shows how devoted the “new” Kerry was to meeting with lobbyists, the administration and senators from Olympia Snowe to Lisa Murkowski. Kerry made uncomfortable deals with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, T. Boone Pickens and Joe Lieberman, which all had to be uncomfortable for a number of political reasons.
5. Harry Reid killed the climate bill
It seemed as though the bill was actually going to get done. The bill had survived threats from different interests, a potential killer leak from the White House and fears that the bill would be framed as a tax on all Americans. But while the climate bill remained alive, it could not survive Harry Reid’s own desire to be reelected. Reid’s actions in the New Yorker article show how Graham had little choice but to remove his support for the bill, while Harry Reid focused on an immigration bill. Reid’s move resulted in the mild mannered Graham calling him and bombarding the majority leader with obscenities. Reid slammed the phone down, the line went dead and so was the climate bill.