Obama, Graham Warn Dems Not to Settle For “Half-Assed” Climate Bill


As I reported yesterday, some Senate Democrats are calling for leadership to abandon a cap on carbon dioxide pollution and instead move forward with a bill that focuses only on energy provisions. And President Barack Obama yesterday also acknowledged that this may well be what happens in the Senate. In remarks to Senate Democrats today, however, Obama called on his party not to take “the easy way out” by dropping a cap on emissions.

“One of the best ways to be on the forefront in energy is to incentivize clean energy and discourage the old sources or methods that aren’t’ going to work in the future,” he said, noting that Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and John Kerry (D-Mass.) are working together to “find a workable, bipartisan structure” that includes both energy incentives and a cap on carbon.

“That’s vital. Don’t give up on that. I don’t want us to just say the easy way out is for us to just give a bunch of tax credits to clean energy companies,” he continued. “The market works best when it responds to price. And if they start seeing that, you know what, dirty energy is a little pricier, clean energy is a little cheaper, they will innovate.”

Graham on Wednesday also rejected moving the Senate energy bill alone. “If the approach is to try to pass some half-assed energy bill, and say that moves the ball down the road, forget it with me,” the South Carolina Republican told business leaders from the renewable energy industry on Wednesday.

It should be noted that Graham opposes this option both because it lacks carbon curbs, but also because he doesn’t think the energy bill approved last June by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee does enough to expand development of nuclear power or offshore oil and gas drilling. But his support for a bill that includes both the desired incentives for fossil fuels and nuclear power and a cap on carbon sets him apart from a number of conservative Democrats, who would prefer to scrap carbon restrictions altogether.

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.