Entries tagged with “Senate”.


. . . a colleague in Senator Menendez’s office passed along one of their recently-introduced bills “To establish a program under which the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency shall provide grants to eligible State consortia to establish and carry out municipal sustainability certification programs” (S.3970).  In effect, the bill directs the EPA to fund the development of state-level sustainability certification programs that include local governments, a state, at least one public university and other organizations, such as NGOs or private sector entities.

So who cares?  The point here is that Senator Menendez’s bill recognizes that challenges such as water supply, energy demand and pollution are “regionally distinct”, and therefore addressing these challenges requires engagement with local and state governments (as opposed to a blanket solution at the national or global level) is a productive way forward.  In other words, this is a legislative effort to promote the Adapting Mosaic scenario I discussed in a recent posts . . . and a welcome demonstration of senatorial competence.

Now, let’s see if it ever emerges from the Committee on Environment and Public Works, which is likely to be chaired in the new session by (gulp) Senator Inhofe.  He of the climate bailout garbage.  Yeah, this is going nowhere.  Dammit.

Update (7 December)

Ah, crap, Hugh quite rightly points out that the Senate still belongs to the Dems, so at least Inhofe won’t be able to kill this right out of the gate.  Man, I am being sucked into the “Republicans own everything” mentality around here . . . when in fact they own one house in Congress.

Man, do some of the Republicans have a slick noise machine – Bloomberg is reporting on a group of senators who are referring to the funds the United States committed as aid to get developing countries moving toward cleaner, more sustainable development as an international climate bailout.  What a soundbite.  What complete idiocy.  Senators, let’s have a chat.

First, let’s consider the idea this is a bailout – what, exactly, are we bailing out?  Developing countries were, by and large, consigned to their positions by the last four to five centuries of global history.  Hell, a large portion of these countries had their borders drawn by other people over the last four to five centuries.  Have you seen Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta)?  Nobody chooses to be landlocked and primary commodity dependent, you know.  So, while the bank bailout here in the US generated outrage because we were saving people from their own irresponsible behavior, to label fast start funding as a climate bailout is to blame the victims – basically, to insinuate that developing countries put themselves in that position somehow.  Now, I am not denying that there have been irresponsible leaders and corruption in many developing countries that have contributed to the plight of their citizens, but most of these countries have only been under their own governments for fifty years or less – which means they arrived really, really late to the screw-things-up party.  Hell, the party had ended and the house had been trashed before they got there – these guys are the governance equivalent of the idiot who shows up drunk on the doorstep, pounding on the door at three AM after everyone has gone home.  No, this is not a bailout in the sense of the bank bailout.

Second, what this bunch overlooks is that this is an investment in OUR OWN FUTURE.  If we do not 1) get some sort of meaningful improvement in people’s quality of live in the developing world and 2) find some means to do so that does not involve massive carbon emissions, we are looking down the barrel of a global environmental cataclysm in my lifetime.  I go over this at length in my book – I would be happy to send a copy along to you and/or your staffs if you were at all interested (you’re not, I know, I know). Plain and simple, there will be nowhere to run to when it all goes bad.  Yes, we in the US, Europe and the rest of the OECD have far more resources with which to cope with such challenges, but our way of life will change dramatically – and not for the better.  Let me put this another way: Senators, your failure to grasp the basics of climate science, or the fundamental fact that we are all interconnected on a relatively small rock orbiting a fairly insignificant star in a mostly unimportant galaxy, leads you to believe that we can just carve off a big chunk of the (very poor) world and take care of ourselves.  We cannot.  You are on the wrong side of history here, and the evidence is already mounting.

Of course, what do you all care?

Sen. John Barraso (R-Wyoming): 58 years old

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma): 76 years old

Sen. David Vitter (R-Louisiana): 49 years old

Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio): 74 years old and retiring at the end of this term

Senator Vitter, you are the only one with a shot of being around long enough to see things go really bad.

Ryan Lizza has an amazing piece in this week’s New Yorker that traces how the Senate version of the climate bill – the one backed by John Kerry (D -MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) – really came to an unnatural, totally unnecessary death.  It is a really sad story in that the bill did not have to die.  But it is also the story of stunning incompetence from the Obama White House, which sold the bill down the river just at the moment the three senators might have been able to marshall the votes.  I disagree with Lindsey Graham on all kinds of stuff, but to be honest he comes out looking the best in this piece.  The poor man got hosed.  Kerry comes off looking like a statesman, too.  Even Lieberman seems forgivable for his past behavior.  But the Obama administration looks to have completely blown this one, and both the US and the larger world will suffer greatly for it.

But one thing remains unresolved for me.  How could the White House, run by an experienced legislative dealmaker like Rahm Emanuel, screwed these negotiations up like this?  Incompetence?  An alternative agenda?  I simply don’t get it . . .

There is much flutter around Senate Democrats’ recent decision to give up on the Energy Bill that might have brought about a cap-and-trade system here in the US.

From the NYTimes:

Senate Democrats on Tuesday abandoned all hopes of passing even a slimmed-down energy bill before they adjourn for the summer recess, saying that they did not have sufficient votes even for legislation tailored narrowly to respond to the Gulf oil spill.

Although the majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, sought to blame Republicans for sinking the energy measure, the reality is that Democrats are also divided over how to proceed on the issue and had long ago given up hope of a comprehensive bill to address climate change.

There will be a lot of analysis of the biophysical impact of our continuing inability to act on the twinned issues of climate change and energy in the coming days, I am sure.  But, early in the morning, I want to quickly point out the cascading disaster this will cause in the environment and development policy world.  What most people don’t understand about the Copenhagen meetings, which ended in such confusion without a clear agreement, is that most of the key actors decided that it would be best to wait and see what the US managed to pass for its own internal purposes, and then try to work to that to ensure that the US joined the next major global climate agreement (remember, we never did sign Kyoto).  Copenhagen wasn’t really a failure the way many people thought – indeed, had they plowed ahead with an agreement in absence of American climate and energy legislation, they would have set the stage for Kyoto II – where the US, once again, refused to sign on to standards that it had not already agreed to.

I have found exactly one piece of good coverage of this issue, via Lisa Friedman of ClimateWire: “Overseas Frustration Grows Over U.S. Domestic Impasse on Climate Policy”.  The article nicely captures what is truly at stake here:

“Why is it that for the last 20 years the United States is unable to have a bill on climate change? What’s happening? What’s going on? It’s very complicated to understand,” said Brice Lalonde, France’s top negotiator.

“For a lot of us, we cannot wait for the United States. We have to go on. It’s like Kyoto,; we just go on” Lalonde said, referring to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol treaty that the U.S. joined but never ratified, leaving European countries to largely carry the weight of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Added Pa Ousman Jarju, lead negotiator for the small West African nation of Gambia, “We cannot rely on the U.S., because everything the U.S. is supposed to do depends on domestic policy. So we’re not going to get anything from the U.S. in terms of tangible commitment.”

He charged that the international community is “no longer hopeful” that America, the world’s biggest historic emitter of global warming pollution, will ever pass a bill to cut emissions. That, he said, leaves the global community with two options: “Either the rest of the world continues to do what they were doing before, or the whole multilateral system will collapse.”

What we were doing before was not good enough.  I am not all that sure that the net outcome of business as usual is all that different from a complete collapse of the environmental component of the multilateral system as we understand it.  The US simply has to be on board, or this is all for naught.  UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres put it this way:

“Whether the United States meets the pledge that it put on the Copenhagen Accord via legislation or whether it meets it via regulation is an internal domestic affair of the United States and one that they need to solve,” she said. “What is clear is that at an international level the United States needs to participate in a a meaningful way, and in a way that is commensurate with its responsibility.”

Credit to her for saying this clearly, and for suggesting that content (getting some sort of formal controls on emissions in place, whether through regulation or legislation) is a lot more important than form (insisting that everyone pass legislation to somehow bolster the legitimacy of these efforts).  Now, let’s see if the Obama Administration is willing to really use the newly-empowered EPA as a blunt object in the fight to control greenhouse gas emissions – at this point, I see no other way forward for the US.  Which means no other meaningful way forward for the rest of the world.