Read the Facts--Not the Tea Leaves--About Passing a Climate Bill

Reading tea leaves is a popular pastime in Washington. I have done it myself. But sometimes when you get so focused on the dregs in the teacup, you miss the real-world facts in front of you.

That seems to be the case with predictions about the demise of the clean energy and climate bill in the Senate.

It’s time to take a look at some fact-based indicators about the fate of this bill--including one from the man in charge of the Senate’s agenda.

Majority Leader Reid Says It Will “Happen This Spring”

On Thursday, Senator Harry Reid said that the Senate will be addressing clean energy and climate legislation in the months ahead, saying “I expect that to happen this spring.” (You can read more about his comments here.)

He pushed back affirmatively against speculation that energy and climate legislation would be under a crowded midterm election-year agenda.

He said that while the Senate has a packed agenda, “We are not so busy that we can’t find the time to address comprehensive energy and climate legislation.”

This statement, coming from the majority leader, makes it clear the bill has a firm place on the Senate’s schedule.

Reid also made clear that the legislation must not only cap carbon pollution but must also create a market for carbon credits to help fund incentives to promote renewable energy and energy conservation. "Finally, and perhaps most importantly,” he said. “Congress needs to send the market a clear signal on the costs of global warming pollution to drive far greater investments into geothermal and every other form of renewable energy and energy efficient. We need the markets on our side."

Senate Leadership Supports an Integrated Energy and Climate Bill

In Reid’s comments today, he spoke exclusively about a comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. He did not suggest voting on a bill that only focuses on energy, as some have suggested.

Indeed, Reid underscored the need to tap the power of the markets to inspire clean energy innovation and investment--something that can best be done by taking an integrated approach to climate and energy policy.

Likewise, Senator Kerry, who together with Senators Graham and Lieberman, is in the lead on this issue, recently stated his views on splitting up energy and climate:

"It's a horrible idea. If you separate climate from energy reform, you slow your ability to create those clean jobs because every market expert tells you those energy reforms can't take hold unless you price carbon. Unless you do something comprehensive you're just going a more expensive, less effective route and you'll keep trailing other countries."

The White House Is Committed to Getting a Bill Passed

Also today, Todd Stern, the U.S. envoy on climate change, addressed a group of private investors concerned about climate change at the United Nations.

Stern said that President Obama intends to move forward with climate legislation this year. "There will be a significant effort on the part of all in the administration to press forward. The president is focused on it, and the White House is focused on it."

That is exactly what the President told me when I met with him in December. His actions in Copenhagen only confirmed his commitment to rolling up his sleeves and hammering out an agreement.

It Is No Secret NRDC Supports Limits on Carbon Emissions

In the midst of trying to divine what is in store for climate legislation, Inside EPA (subscription required) mistakenly concluded that because I did not use the phrase “cap and trade” in a recent blog post about Carol Browner, NRDC does not support this tool for addressing global warming.

The author simply read too much into the tea leaves. One only has to go to NRDC’s website or Switchboard blog to conclude that when we say we support clean energy and climate legislation, that means we back clear, comprehensive limits on carbon pollution--limits that tighten over time to meet what science say we must do to stabilize the climate.

Our position on that hasn’t changed. It can’t, because the science hasn’t changed.

If the Tea Leaves Aren’t Working, Why Keeping Using Them?

Recent predictions about the death of clean energy and climate legislation are rarely based on the facts.

Plenty of people thought similar legislation would fail in the House, and they were wrong. Plenty of people think major environmental legislation won’t get passed in an election year, and they are wrong about that too (read about some examples here).

Perhaps these voices keep calling for the bill’s funeral because they want to attend it. I am planning to attend its signing instead.

About the Authors

Frances Beinecke

Former President

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