A fine line between pro-drilling, pro-safety, and pro-climate

Senator Lisa Murkowski’s attempt to prevent the US Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases has failed, not even getting a 51-vote simple majority. It did however win support from six Democrats (and no Republicans opposed it).

This was seen as something of a test for the likelihood of a climate bill getting through the Senate.

As we’ve written before, the BP oil spill hasn’t made the politics of a US climate bill any less murky. In fact, counter-intuitively, it might be even more complicated for sponsors of a climate bill to navigate the complex mix of Democrats senators from fossil fuel-rich states and potential Republican climate supporters. Offshore oil drilling is by no means universally unpopular.

But the Hill’s excellent E2 Wire blog has this interesting snippet from consulting firm ClearView, who believe that the Murkowski vote shows cap-and-trade isn’t completely doomed:

No Republicans voted against the resolution. This does not mean, however, that that all 41 Republicans will vote against a climate bill that could deliver substantial economic benefits to their states. Although American Power Act architect Lindsey Graham (R-SC) remains opposed to the legislation he helped craft, we reiterate that, with (a) a pro-drilling, pro-safety compromise that provides political “containment” of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill; and (b) explicit support by coal state Democrats, Senator Graham and other green-leaning Republicans may find themselves with the opportunity to negotiate even greater provisions on behalf of their constituents in return for offering the decisive votes in support of passage (60 Senate votes would be required).

In other words, some more courting of fossil fuel interests are still needed. Doing this without alienating the most strongly anti-drilling Democrats will be a challenge, however.

Ezra Klein is not convinced that this is possible:

The bad news is that in a 60-vote Senate, it’s hard to imagine a climate bill, or even a mere energy bill that does something about coal-fired plants, getting through.

Jay Rockefeller, one of the coal state Democrats senators, told E2 that there were doubts about whether the legislation should go to the Senate floor without certainty of a filibuster-proof 60 votes. And he doesn’t think that is possible:

Asked if he thought Kerry’s plan could get 60 votes, Rockefeller replied: “I don’t think so. But I think John [Kerry] does.”

Related links:

Will ‘asymmetry’ in US energy politics thwart world climate goals? - FT Energy Source
Has the White House painted itself into a corner over climate change? – FT Energy Source
Climate bill changes offshore drilling provisions, but will it matter? – FT Energy Source

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