Which is Going to Be More Difficult? Getting a Climate Bill or Getting a Climate Bill Right?

There has been a fair bit of evidence in recent weeks that getting a climate bill through Congress remains a difficult task. It is a sign of just how perfectly aligned the stars will need to be that the two recent problems for the bill were either completing unrelated to climate change or at best tangential.

First, as everyone knows, Senator Graham got annoyed that Senator Reid (locked in a tough reelection battle and needing Hispanic votes) suggested that he might move an immigration bill before the climate/energy bill. Senator Graham, as about the only Republican willing to work with Democrats, and knowing the leverage that he possesses, actually used that leverage. Senator Reid appears to have backed off at this point and my sense is that Kerry, Lieberman, and Graham were so close that it’s difficult to believe that they wouldn’t have been able to get a bill trhough in the next couple of months.

Then, of course, BP”s Deepwater Horizon drill rig sank. The resulting oil spill and potentially catastrophic damage to the Gulf Coast has quieted, for now, the Drill, Baby, Drill, crowd, and emboldened opponents of off-shore drilling. Notwithstanding the obvious reaction to the spill, expanded off-shore drilling was a likely part of the compromise necessary to get a climate bill over the finish line. Moderate and conservative senators are still going to require something that will allow them to vote for the bill as an economic development measure.

More coal? Oops. Forgot about the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion.

I still think that a bill will happen. Partly because I’m an optimist. Partly because it just seemed that Kerry, Lieberman, and Graham were to close to fail, as it were.

Which brings up the second part of this post. If I’m right, we’re going to get a bill. Will it be a good bill? Last week, the Rasmussen Reports announced the results of a poll showing that most Americans favor passage of a climate bill. However, at the same time, most American’s don’t want to pay anything for it. Now, that’s not really a surprise. Nonetheless, since most environmentalists, most economists, and even Senator Graham believe that we have to put a price on carbon, it does make it politically difficult for Congress to do what it has to do (and, yes, I do know that we can put a price on carbon and still provide rebates that will leave consumers both facing carbon prices and in the same net economic position).

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