All signs point to Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry being the last hope for garnering support for a carbon price in the U.S. Senate.

Yes, the man who voted against the war before voting for it, or whatever the order was, is now meeting with fellow senators in Washington to see if a carbon price can be brought back to life after it appeared dead.

Politico is reporting that Kerry is abandoning his previous efforts of passing a three-tiered approach and is now trying to sell a utilities-only approach.

Kerry’s approach is different from the one he and Sen. Joseph Lieberman attempted to push two weeks ago. While Lieberman is still involved in the energy debate, it is Kerry who has ditched the proposed program to limit emissions in three sectors. While the utilities sector would remain on the hook, so-called heavy industry and the transportation sector would be left out of the regulatory loop.

But, if Kerry can somehow garner support for his new, simpler approach, he would be adding a new notch to his political belt: a price on carbon. 

Kerry is gambling that a comprehensive energy bill is simply out of the question and that introducing a light version of a cap-and-trade proposal will be more likely to make it through the upper chamber of Congress. Signals about the wisdom of Kerry’s gamble are mixed. Sen. Lindsey Graham told Politico that utility-only is, “the sweet spot for the carbon bill for the body as a whole.” But, Ohio’s Sen. George Voinovich has publically compared the likelihood of passing even a utility-only cap-and-trade bill to being “a real climb up the mountain.”

Complicating matters is that while Kerry is off trying to find any Republicans to support his new idea, there are several Democratic senators who don’t think the new “carbon-light” approach goes far enough. Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is already on the record telling The Hill that, “it would be very challenging to vote for an energy bill that did not take a significant step to limiting carbon emissions.” So the question for Whitehouse and other like-minded senators is: Is utility-only a significant enough step towards limiting carbon emissions?

These are the challenges Kerry faces on both sides of the political aisle as he once again reports for duty.  

Kerry may be last hope for price on carbon
By focusing only on the utilities industry, Kerry may be able to get Republican support, but will it cost him votes in his own party?