The Soap Opera Continues As Graham Floats Utility Only Climate Bill

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photo via flickr

It's another day, which must mean there is a new development in the climate world's most drama-packed storyline: just what will the Senate do or won't do on its climate and energy bill? On Friday, the story's most mercurial character, Sen. Lindsey Graham, added a new wrinkle, stripping the climate bill to just an electric utility industry tax. Graham thinks that by doing so a bill could muster the support of 60 Senators and that it would send the right market signals to prompt growth in nuclear power generation and renewable energy. Said Graham in EE News (subscription required):

"We do need to price carbon to make nuclear power and wind and solar and some alternative technologies economically viable. On the transportation side, maybe you can reduce emissions without a cap. I don't know. But you need to put a price on carbon in the power production area at a minimum to jump-start these other technologies."

Graham has been at the center of much of the drama. After working with Sens. Lieberman and Kerry for nine months on a comprehensive climate and energy bill that had a short-term target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, Graham pulled his support over a dispute with Senate leadership over when the bill would be given priority.

Reports are unclear how Graham would structure his utility only bill. It could be a carbon tax or an emissions trading system. He has made it clear that he wants to leave transportation out of the equation, saying that a gas tax is politically toxic.

Making the most of out the worstThe New York Times'
Tom Friedman again today implored the president to use the BP oil spill as a reason to rally the country behind the reality that we need to move off of oil now. The president, thus far, has been unwilling to present a BIG plan, instead choosing to support whatever comes out of Congress, including the bill Graham has now abandoned.

Presidential leadership might just be what is required to get a transportation title into the bill and have Graham stand behind it. A tax could be used as a taxpayer rebate, as revenue for investment in low carbon technologies, or as a way to pay down debt.

More on Graham:
I'll filibuster my own climate bill

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