A nice piece from Steven Pearlstein of The Washington Post asked the question — has the passage of health reform brought the climate change bill back to life? Pearlstein says Obama’s health reform success could prove to the parties that compromise doesn’t have to be a dirty word:
Democrats and their liberal supporters saw how much good could be accomplished by not allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good. And Republicans and the business lobby were reminded of the concessions they could have won but didn’t by their decision to abandon bipartisan compromise and instead try to kill the legislation altogether.
Pearlstein believes there’s a 50-50 chance the Senate will pass a “simpler and more moderate version” of a bill this year that would begin to substantially reduce carbon emissions in the United States.
The Senate bill that Democrat Senator John Kerry, Republican Lindsey Graham and independent Joe Lieberman are expected to introduce in around a week is likely to have no other Republican as an initial co-sponsor. But it could be moderate enough to convince them to jump on board. The bill:
…retains the cap-and-trade structure of the House bill, it would apply, at least initially, only to electric power producers, with other manufacturers coming under the regime after 2016. The oil and gas industry would be handled under a separate regime that requires refiners to buy emissions permits for all the carbon contained in the gasoline or other fuels they sell — in effect, a fee or tax on carbon. The amount of the fee would be determined by the price at which carbon emissions allowances are bought or sold by utilities on open exchanges. And while the fee would almost certainly be passed on to consumers in the form of higher fuel prices, most of it would be rebated through payroll and other tax credits. By paying more for energy and less for taxes, the idea is that Americans will use less energy and wind up with roughly the same amount of money to spend on everything else.
But the real question is whether Obama has the political will to push this thing through. The health bill looked dead before the President personally poured his own sweat and blood into hauling it through — right now he’s focused on economic reform, so where does climate change factor into reforming an economy in tatters?
It’s not necessarily politically popular, and when asked by Kerry O’Brien last week what he wanted his legacy to be, the President talked Afghanistan, Iraq, health reform and stabilising the economy — climate change didn’t rate a mention.