Padding Obama's Pockets

Senators release framework for global warming legislation

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The Senate’s Three Amigos—Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Kerry (D-MA), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT)—today released their framework for tackling global warming, our planetary El Guapo. The 5-page document lays out some broad principles for a Senate bill but is slim on specifics.

Crystal clear, however, is the senators’ desire for a market-based system (i.e. one in which supply and demand reigns) rather than a system of government regulation: "Monday’s endangerment finding by the EPA underscores the importance of Congressional action to address greenhouse gas emissions before the EPA moves unilaterally."

The endangerment finding—which makes possible the regulation of global warming pollution through the Clean Air Act—is a bitter pill to most business groups and industries, whose spokespeople quickly fired off "economy killer" statements when the finding was announced.

Their bombast aside, a proactive EPA will ideally give sure footing to politicians who seek to strengthen proposed global warming legislation. And given that Clean Air Act regulation of global warming pollution is no idle threat, perhaps the typical obstructionists will have to suck it up and support a stronger bill because they fear the alternative. Perhaps.

No doubt, the Three Amigos are hoping their framework will strengthen Obama’s hand in Copenhagen. They’ve echoed his promise to reduce emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. And not surprisingly, to draw the quorum they need to clear the filibuster hurdle, space has been allotted for nuclear, a future for coal, and expanded oil and gas drilling. One wonders if the senators will lose support at the other end of the ideological spectrum for these concessions.

Ultimately, Obama heads to Copenhagen with a work in progress, and we’ll just have to wait and see if our efforts thus far will be sufficient for the assembled delegates, not to mention the planet.

Sam Edmondson was a campaign manager on air toxics issues from 2010 until 2012. He helped organize the first 50 States United for Healthy Air event. His desire to work at an environmental organization came from the belief that if we don't do something to change our unsustainable ways, we are in big trouble.