The White House has said that on Friday, President Barack Obama will pledge the United States to achieve a 17% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The Senate will determine whether he can deliver on that promise.
Soon after Barack Obama was elected president, congressional climate change advocates set their sights on passing a cap-and-trade bill in time for him to bring a firm U.S. commitment on emissions reductions to this week's climate meeting in Copenhagen. "That was a situation we were hoping for," says former Senate climate aide Tim Profeta. When Obama speaks on Friday, he is expected to say that the United States will cut emissions by 17% relative to 2005 by 2020--if Congress acts. His promise will be backed up by the provisions in the bill the House of Representatives passed in June.
But the Senate has failed to act. The Kerry-Boxer legislation, which contains slightly more stringent provisions, has passed only one of the six committees with jurisdiction. "We're trying to make the best of the situation," says Profeta, now director of the Nicholas School of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Critics say that's an understatement. "Dead on arrival" is how Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) sees the legislation. So the big question is: Can Obama deliver on his pledges? Read full post »
ScienceInsider analyzes the data to assess the chances of gaining 60 votes in the Senate. See full graphic »
The test of garnering a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the U.S. Senate for climate legislation has certainly led to plenty of teeth gnashing. But despite all the coverage of the Copenhagen meeting, one issue that has received little or no attention is how that august body would respond to whatever international agreement--either this year or next--is embraced by the nearly 200 nations involved in the exercise.
The starting point is the fact that, under the U.S. Constitution, two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 votes, are needed to ratify any international treaty. Wouldn't that be next to impossible? "It's a good question," says Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). "That's a large number," agrees former senate climate aide Tim Profeta. Matt Dempsey, spokesperson for Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), who leads opposition to climate legislation in the Senate, doesn't mince words: "No way."But there's another way, which Congress has often used, to avoid the problem of gaining 67 votes. Read full post »
Why the President will fail
By Iain Murray
The key will be realistic goals
By Rafe Pomerance
Max Baucus (D-MT)
The chair of the Finance committee represents a state that obtains 65% of its energy from coal, and he voted against the Kerry-Boxer legislation in committee because he wanted less stringent near-term targets. But the powerful lawmaker's support is seen as essential for gaining the needed 60 votes in the Senate.
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
The chair of the Senate energy committee won the panel's approval in June for a bill that would mandate renewable energy production--and could pass on its own. His preference for an upper limit on the costs of reducing carbon emissions could win over fence-sitters.
Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
The canny environment panel chair has led the battle in committee against Inhofe and co-authored, with Kerry, the main climate bill. But passing the bill out of committee without Republican participation--they were boycotting-- bucks decades of precedent and could risk spreading ill will.
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Cantwell wants to cap emissions, but her approach regulates fossil fuel carbon when it is produced or imported, not emitted. She would also give 75% of cap-and-trade revenues directly to consumers instead of the 15% that Boxer has proposed.
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Graham believes that the dual imperatives of energy security and the destabilizing geopolitical effects of climate change are reason enough to act. Carbon tariffs to protect U.S. jobs may be the price of his vote.
James Inhofe (R-OK)
John Kerry (D-MA)
Kerry bemoans the inadequacy of even the toughest proposed measures, but he's sketched out a key bipartisan deal with Republican Lindsey Graham and Independent Joe Lieberman to package cap-and-trade with nuclear power, offshore drilling, and border taxes.
Joseph Lieberman (I-CT)
A key link to moderate Republicans, Lieberman has been a Senate leader on the issue for a decade. But he'll need to work very hard to win back the support of his old partner on climate legislation, John McCain (R-AZ), who's now an opponent.
Unlike former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin, Murkowski believes in anthropogenic climate change. But her vote will hinge on how she balances the impacts of climate change on her state against its plentiful supply of fossil fuels. See our interview here »