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Two Preemptive Critiques Of The Senate Climate Bill

Although the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman climate bill in the Senate still hasn't been finalized, let alone unveiled, the rumors that have crept out so far (namely, that the bill's going to abandon cap-and-trade and go for a multi-sector approach, where different of polluters—refiners, utilities, manufacturers—are each regulated differently) have already sparked a fair bit of discussion.

First, over at Solve Climate, Julia Harte interviews a number of economists who argue that the Senate's patchwork approach is bound to be less efficient than a simple price on carbon that applies equally across the board. That's true enough, but economists don't really get a vote in the Senate. The bill is going to be a lot messier than is optimal in order to mollify industry opposition and avoid a filibuster. Maybe things would be different if there were more conservative legislators out there who agreed that climate change was a problem and were pushing for a simple, streamlined carbon price (since, in theory, that'd be the conservative, market-friendly response to the problem). But no such luck.

Secondly, Dave Roberts points out that the price on carbon isn't the only component of a climate bill. The Waxman-Markey bill in the House had a whole slew of complementary measures, including renewable-power requirements for utilities, efficiency standards that are projected to reduce (yes, reduce) consumer bills 7 percent by 2020, and so forth. So what about the Senate? Well, the energy committee already passed a bill full of complementary measures last year, and it's dismal: "As a standalone bill, it does virtually nothing for renewables, boosts efficiency a middling amount, and dumps a bonanza of subsidies on offshore drilling, nuclear power, tar sands, oil shale, and natural gas." Not exactly promising.

(Flickr photo credit: wallyg)