Oil Spill May Spur Action on Energy, Probably Not on Climate

Are images from the Gulf of Mexico enough to prod the Senate to act on long-delayed clean energy and climate change legislation?

US-Senate-SealWASHINGTON, D.C. — Images of gushing oil and dying pelicans in the Gulf of Mexico have stirred anger and agony in Washington. But are they enough to prod the Senate to act on long-delayed clean energy and climate change legislation?

Energy, maybe. Climate, probably not. There is growing sentiment for a measure that penalizes BP, imposes higher costs and tougher regulations on offshore drillers and takes some steps toward reducing overall energy and petroleum consumption.

But despite the outrage over the spill, there appears to be limited appetite in the Senate for a broad-based effort to cap greenhouse gas emissions across the board.

Enacting that kind of legislation will require a grand bargain involving greater nuclear plant construction, concessions to the coal and utility industries, exemptions for major manufacturers and more, not less, domestic oil and gas drilling to attract Republican and moderate Democratic support.

A coalition of 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster is not yet in sight. In the words of Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican who worked on a climate change bill for months before pronouncing it hopeless, “There’s nowhere near 60 votes to save the polar bear.”

President Obama has said that the time has come to put a price on carbon dioxide pollution and vowed to find the votes for it this year. On Thursday, reacting to the defeat of a Republican plan to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating climate-changing emissions, the president again cited the urgent need to pass clean-energy and climate legislation.

Behind the scenes, however, his advisers are working on a more modest package of energy-saving measures that stop well short of an effort to cap carbon emissions across all sectors of the economy.

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Source: The New York Times
Photo: U.S. Senate