One hand clapping: Coal Subsidy Act to fail?

The latest news suggests that the Lieberman-Warner Coal Subsidy Act (the Climate InSecurity Act, CISA) has moved from critical condition to the morgue.  As it will require 60 votes to get past any threatened filibuster (not that the Senate Democratic Party leadership could force a filibuster on anyone other than their own Senators fighting for Americans’ privacy rights),  corraling enough Senators to vote for even the CISA’s inadequate measures looks to be an impossible task.  As Joe Romm phrased it at Climate Progress,

Serious climate legislation had been in critical condition for some months.  Doctors and family members finally pulled the plug this week, and the patient appeared to lose all vital signs. The coroner listed the cause of death as “apathy.”

While disagreeing with Joe about whether to call Lieberman-Warner serious or seriously dangerous, apathy in face of ever mounting evidence of the existing damage from Global Warming and looming threats of more damage to come is moving toward reckless endangerment of America’s and humanity’s future prospects.

What is truly sad, truly, is that so much of what is necessary can fall into a no regret strategy, with ‘win-win’ categories. We can ‘geo-engineer’ to a better planetary environment with biochar and white roofing, gaining other benefits at the same time, win-win-win paths.  We can pursue greater energy efficiency, leading toward more comfortable lives while creating good jobs, reducing pollution, and spending less money on energy.  With each day that passes, renewable energy is becoming more cost competitive with fossil fuel energy, even before we discuss making “external” costs internal to the calculation of energy prices.  We can do so much good … even without considering the climate benefits. 

Thus, one hand clapping:  the Coal-Subsidy Act (fundamentally inadequate in face of the threat before us, before the US) seems unlikely to muster enough support to pass.  The hand not clapping:  that it won’t pass because Senators are engaged in reckless endangerment and acting as if it is too strong a measure.

Sigh …

In the face of apathy, angst over the future.

But, back to the Coal Subsidy Act and its (imminent) demise.

Senator Boxer has said that she will shelve the bill if it is weakened too much.  What is “too much” might require explanation as there are efforts to weaken the bill to try to gain more votes in support.  For example, from one of the bill’s authors:

Warner yesterday said he was looking for changes before the floor debate that would allow the president to “pull back the throttle” if the legislation’s emission targets cannot be met with available technology, or if the U.S. economy was under stress through, for example, $5 a gallon gasoline.

Hmmm … Does anyone not expect that gasoline is likely to hit $5 per gallon well before Lieberman-Warner’s cap on carbon emissions would even begin to take effect?  Would this loop hole virtually guarantee leakage from any cap?  Is that weakening the bill too much?

There are Senate Democrats who are holding out for special provisions to protect polluting industries in their states, such as Sherrod Brown:

I have serious concerns about any climate-change bill that doesn’t take into account energy-intensive industries like we have in Ohio — glass and chemicals and steel and aluminum and foundries,” Brown said.

“He’s concerned,” Brown spokeswoman Joanna Kuebler explained yesterday. “He’s leaning toward a no.”

Kent Conrad wants to protect coal-fired electricity in North Dakota.  More legitimately, Maria Cantwell seems to want to ensure that those who already have low-carbon footprints are not unduly penalized in favor of those with a more polluting shoe size.

We want to make sure people who are already good at reducing CO2 emissions will continue to do that and not be penalized.

This, of course, is not even talking about those who simply don’t believe in science, like James Inhofe (R-Exxon).   Now, quite sadly, the “alternatives” being put on the table are even weaker and guarantee utter disaster, like George Voinovich’s (R-Ohio) conservative (lack of) principles on climate legislation. 

Sigh.

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping.

One response to “One hand clapping: Coal Subsidy Act to fail?

  1. If you have any other questions please feel free to call me or visit the Terra Preta / Biochar web site I’ve been drafted to co-administer. http://terrapreta.bioenergylists.org/?q=node

    It has been immensely gratifying to see all the major players join the mail list , Cornell folks, T. Beer of Kings Ford Charcoal (Clorox), Novozyne the M-Roots guys(fungus), chemical engineers, Dr. Danny Day of EPRIDA , Dr. Antal of U. of H., Virginia Tech folks and many others .

    The main hurtle now is to change the current perspective held by the IPCC that the soil carbon cycle is a wash, to one in which soil can be used as a massive and ubiquitous Carbon sink via Charcoal. Below are the first concrete steps in that direction;

    S.1884 – The Salazar Harvesting Energy Act of 2007

    A Summary of Biochar Provisions in S.1884:

    Carbon-Negative Biomass Energy and Soil Quality Initiative

    for the 2007 Farm Bill

    http://www.biochar-international.org/newinformationevents/newlegislation.html

    Tackling Climate Change in the U.S.
    Potential Carbon Emissions Reductions from Biomass by 2030by Ralph P. Overend, Ph.D. and Anelia Milbrandt
    National Renewable Energy Laboratory

    http://www.ases.org/climatechange/toc/07_biomass.pdf

    The organization 25×25 released it’s (first-ever, 55-page )”Action Plan” ; see; http://www.25×25.org/storage/25×25/documents/IP%20Documents/ActionPlanFinalWEB_04-19-07.pdf
    On page 29 , as one of four foci for recommended RD&D, the plan lists: “The development of biochar, animal agriculture residues and other non-fossil fuel based fertilizers, toward the end of integrating energy production with enhanced soil quality and carbon sequestration.”
    and on p 32, recommended as part of an expanded database aspect of infrastructure: “Information on the application of carbon as fertilizer and existing carbon credit trading systems.”

    I feel 25×25 is now the premier US advocacy organization for all forms of renewable energy, but way out in front on biomass topics.

    Cheers,
    Erich J. Knight

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