The Climate Isn’t Right | By Kent Hoover

No one believed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could get legislation capping carbon emissions through the Senate before the August recess. Today, the Nevada Democrat lived up to those expectations.

Reid announced the Senate would begin considering energy legislation next week, but it won’t include mandatory limits on greenhouse gases. Most climate scientists think carbon emissions—from coal-burning power plants to gasoline-powered automobiles—are a major contributor to global warming. Environmentalists have long urged capping carbon emissions, and some business leaders agree that putting a price on carbon is essential for the development of alternative sources of energy.

The House already had passed legislation that would cap carbon emissions and set up a system for trading emissions allowances. Reid, however, has been unable to find the 60 votes needed to clear procedural hurdles in the Senate, even after a compromise was floated that would limit the carbon caps to electric utilities.

“It’s easy to count to 60,” Reid said, according to Politico. “I could do it by the time was in eighth grade. My point is, we know where we are. We know we don’t have the votes.”

Reid set himself up for failure by earlier announcing that the Senate would spend two weeks on climate change and energy legislation before taking their monthlong August break. Now he’s decided to move forward on energy legislation, but forget about climate change for now. Instead the bill will focus on improving the safety of offshore oil drilling, promoting energy efficiency and other less ambitious energy goals.

Reid left the door open for action later on climate change, but the closer the Senate gets to the November election, the less likely it will have the stomach to take up such a controversial topic. Republicans and some Democrats contend the economy can’t handle higher energy prices, a likely consequence—at least in the short term—of caps on carbon emissions.

Environmentalists weren’t happy with Reid’s decision to not save the planet.

David Hawkins, director of climate programs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Reid “delivered very bad news to the American people.”

“Continuing obstructionism by the Senate Republican leadership, joined by a handful of Democratic senators, is still blocking the way forward on essential clean-energy and climate legislation,” he said.

“It is time for all of us to make our voices heard. Over the recess we must deliver a message to senators: Do your job! We face a triple threat of a stagnant economy, ballooning energy insecurity, and a climate that is coming apart. Don’t fail us. Don’t fail our children. Don’t come home again without having tackled these real and present dangers.”

The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, however, said the decision by Senate Democrats to stop pursuing a cap on carbon emissions “was probably one of their best moves of 2010.”

A study conducted for the council and the American Council for Capital Formation concluded the climate-change bill sponsored by Senators John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Senator Joe Lieberman, an Independent from Connecticut, would cost the U.S. economy nearly 2 million jobs by 2030 and increase residential electricity prices by 42 percent.