Climate change bill hits Senate with little chance for success

factory smokestacks spewing pollution

The Senate climate change bill was unveiled Wednesday, and John Kerry hopes to pass it this year despite toxic bickering and the BP oil spill. Flickr photo.

The Senate climate change bill was unveiled Wednesday after months of partisan bickering and the peevish defection of one of its main sponsors. Senators John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Joe Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, presented a climate and energy package designed to limit climate change and promote clean energy jobs. Kerry said it was imperative the Senate climate change bill, which includes a little something for everyone, gets passed this year. But one of the vote-getting goodies in the climate bill is expanded off-shore drilling — a provision that could backfire in the wake of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A bad climate for change

Negotiations with special interest groups and lawmakers by Kerry and Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, on the climate and energy bill appeared to be humming along until last month. Graham abruptly withdrew his support of the energy legislation under pressure from GOP true believers. Right wing enforcers were upset that Graham may have been giving Democrats installment loans of Republican support. Graham gave an oblique reference to immigration politics as an excuse. But potential Republican votes that the climate change bill needs to pass may have gone out the window along with Graham.

Clean energy stained by oil

When the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico erupted last month, one of the big vote-getting goodies in the climate and energy package — incentives to increase domestic offshore drilling — was rewritten. The New York Times reports that instead of providing for a broad expansion of offshore drilling, the Kerry-Lieberman bill gives coastal states the right to veto any drilling plan that could cause environmental or economic harm. Graham had a hand in drafting the original oil drilling provision.

Energy legislation draws a big crowd

The Senate climate change bill has attracted a swarm of lobbyists. Oil companies have spent millions to derail the climate and energy package. Clean energy producers with big investments in low-carbon nuclear power, natural gas or wind and solar power have been trying to enrich themselves with the Senate climate bill. Reuters reports that green energy utilities such as FPL Group, Duke Energy and Exelon have lobbied alongside environmental groups for the climate change bill, along with General Electric, a manufacturer of clean coal and natural gas systems for power plants and wind turbines.

Clean energy, green jobs

Kerry’s presentation of the Senate climate change bill was accompanied by a blog on the Huffington Post asking for public support. Kerry claims the climate and energy bill package will help create nearly 2 million new green energy jobs, develop new products, and support the research and development required to help the U.S. maintain leadership in the global economy. He also claims the climate bill as written will reduce the deficit by about $21 billion in nine years.

Climate change in the Senate?

Kerry conveys a sense of urgency for clean energy and green energy jobs, saying  it’s long overdue for America to lead on climate change. He vows to mount a “full court press” to pass the energy legislation in 2010. But Kerry wants to add more pressure to a Congress paralyzed from dealing with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, financial reform, immigration reform, an upcoming Supreme Court nomination battle and a sputtering economic recovery.