Obama: Energy Bill Must Price Carbon


Photo via the San Francisco Sentinel

Despite all the recent talk about how the clean energy and climate bill is moribund in the Senate, there are still some serious signs that it may be worth holding out hope yet. Yesterday, Obama gathered two dozen senators to discuss the prospects for the legislation -- in the meeting, he yet again stressed that any such bill must include a mechanism that prices carbon ...Here's the AP report:

Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman told reporters after meeting with the president Tuesday that Obama was clear an energy bill must cap and price the carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

But Kerry, D-Mass., and Lieberman, I-Conn., the authors of proposed climate legislation, say they saw potential for compromise with the GOP and were willing to scale back their aims.

Republican senators said after the meeting that they could only accept a bill without what they called an energy tax. That left the path to compromise unclear despite urgency from the Gulf oil spill.

Yet, as Climate Progress points out, at least one Republican senator, Olympia Snowe of Maine, has endorsed the idea of pricing carbon -- even though her statement included some confusing tenets and conditions for embracing that idea.

But then again, there's that pesky, misleading 'energy tax' tag that the GOP loves to throw around, which is alone likely preventing some of the moderates in the Senate from supporting clean energy legislation. I'll tackle why pricing carbon through a cap and trade system, as proposed in the Kerry-Lieberman bill (as well as the bill that passed the House of Reps last year) is no such 'energy tax' later on today. Pricing carbon is a must if there is going to be a meaningful transition away from reliance on dirty fossil fuels.

Finally, I'd like to note that it's a good thing that Obama is at least continuing to pursue the need to price carbon -- the missteps in energy policy he's made (the unfortunate offshore drilling allowance right before the Gulf spill for starters) have put him in a tough spot strategically, and much of that is his own fault. Seeing as how the conventional wisdom says that there's not going to be a climate bill this year, it may be politically prudent to opt for a more popular (but mostly worthless) "energy-only" bill. And the outrage at the Gulf spill and allure of clean energy may yet inspire the legislators to get their act together. Let's see.

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