Obama’s push on energy bill falls on deaf Capitol Hill ears

Obama exits stage right (Reuters)

President Barack Obama’s muted call for comprehensive energy legislation failed to sway a hesitant Congress on Wednesday, with hopes for approval before November elections fading fast.

In his first national address from the Oval Office, Obama said on Tuesday the Gulf of Mexico oil spill provided a chance to break the U.S. dependence on fossil fuels and find new ways to power factories, automobiles and electric utilities so they emit fewer global-warming pollutants.

But he offered no specifics, and the lack of guidance frustrated some supporters and lent little urgency to an issue that has fallen down a crowded list of congressional priorities less than five months before the congressional election.

“Some say you’ve got to bring climate change to the floor of the Senate right now. I don’t think there’s 60 votes for a climate change bill,” said Senator Byron Dorgan, a member of the Democratic leadership, referring to the number of votes needed to overcome Senate procedural hurdles.

Dorgan instead favors quick passage of a less ambitious bill approved by the Senate Energy Committee last year encouraging broader use of alternative energy.

In an effort to whip up support in Congress for an energy bill, Obama will meet leading Republican and Democratic senators next week. Democrat Joe Lieberman, Senate co-sponsor of a comprehensive energy approach, said Obama’s involvement would make it easier to get something through the Senate.

“I think the president is really focused on this now, and he can make all the difference,” he told reporters.

But Obama’s failure to specifically push for a comprehensive strategy in his speech was a missed opportunity, said Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton.

“The president’s speech tacitly sounded the death-knell for the inclusion of serious climate change provisions in any energy bill that Congress might enact this year,” he said.

After long and contentious debates on a healthcare overhaul and financial regulatory reform, Congress has little appetite for another major political battle that forces lawmakers to take difficult votes shortly before voters render verdicts on their work.

The legislative agenda for Congress is already jammed, as lawmakers try to complete work on the overhaul of financial regulations, confirm a new Supreme Court nominee, bolster job growth and consider possible action on immigration and taxes.

SENATE DEMOCRATS TO CONSIDER APPROACH

Senate Democrats will meet on Thursday to discuss their approach on energy and the environment, with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi hoping to decide how to proceed by July 4.

Obama’s fellow Democrats are battling to retain control of Congress in November, when they face heavy election losses amid a broad wave of voter unhappiness over high unemployment and the stumbling economy.

Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana said it would be hard to pass a comprehensive energy bill this year, but the oil spill could help galvanize support.

“It’s going to be very difficult, but I don’t think it’s impossible,” she said. “Big events like this move people, move the public and when the public moves, their leaders move.”

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander said an energy bill would take weeks of floor debate in a Senate that is already experiencing heavy fallout from the yearlong battle over the healthcare overhaul passed in March.

“It’d be hard to get all that done,” he said. “I think we should take steps toward clean energy rather than try to do anything comprehensive.”

Signs of election-year paralysis are already evident in Congress, where neither the Senate nor House has approved a budget blueprint this year and it appears unlikely they will.

“A Congress that can’t pass a budget is going to pass the most expansive environmental legislation in decades within months of an election — what are the odds of that?” asked Steven Schier, a political analyst at Carleton College in Minnesota.

The focus in Congress will be on the Senate, where global warming legislation has languished since the House narrowly passed a bill a year ago. So far, the 60 votes needed for any legislation have not clearly emerged.

The Senate has a few options. One likely outcome is that senators package a bill that gets tough on offshore drilling and also encourages more alternative energy sources.

A less likely outcome is that those elements of a bill are coupled with the comprehensive climate change legislation senators Lieberman and John Kerry are pushing to reduce U.S. carbon dioxide pollution by 17 percent by 2020, from 2005 levels.

“The president now needs to lay out the specifics. What exactly are the steps we know we can take now? What kind of sacrifices can be made? How can every American help?” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

Copyright © 2010 Reuters LTD

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6 Responses to "Obama’s push on energy bill falls on deaf Capitol Hill ears"

  1. griff  June 17, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Nice picture. Run away! Run away!

    Please, please get this bill to the floor for debate and a vote before the elections. Pretty please?

  2. Mightymo  June 17, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    I wish this would pass! I desperately want to install a solar panel system on my home, but like for so many, the $30K up front cost is prohibitive. Even with incentives, the cost is still high.
    If we could get more people to use solar panels, the cost to manufacture them would start to decline, and they would become more affordable for everyone, and I’m confident that the pace of installation would climb even quicker.
    The most desireable aspect of solar panels isn’t about what they can save today, it’s what they can save tomorrow.
    I could save $110 dollars a month right now, but in 10 years if prices continue to climb as they have I could probably save $160, in 20 years probably $225 a month! For me that’s incentive enough to try and have them installed.

  3. woody188  June 17, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    carbon dioxide pollution

    Talk about an oxymoron. Since when are the gasses plants “breathe” during photosynthesis considered pollution?

    Without it, plants and algae stop producing oxygen, you know that “pollution” we humans and animals breathe.

    Since Sen. Graham pulled his support from the Lieberman-Kerry bill that he helped to write, it’s dead in the water more so than the wildlife of the Gulf. Graham knows if Lieberman-Kerry passed it would mean the end of the careers of every member that voted for it. Lord knows it should mean the end of the careers of those fascist globalist pigs Lieberman and Kerry.

    Thanks to Climategate more of us now know that this is a giant hoax to tax us more and fund world government. But don’t take my word on it. Lead man-made global warming alarmist Al Gore stated as much.

    I would love a de-centralized alternative energy grid but look at Spain to see how that works out today. Basically it helped bankrupt their nation. We just aren’t there yet. But there are some promising things in the pipeline, like a 5kW high efficiency battery developed in Utah, and newer solar arrays that are stamped on film and rolled out into place costing only 10% of current costs. Plus I just read about a new wind turbine that can produce 1kW of power in 5mph winds due to a new generator that turns more readily.

    We just need another decade or so to get there folks, and we don’t need government interference or borrowing (stealing) from our kids futures to get there.

    Climategate is the biggest scientific scandal since the flat-Earthers persecuted Galileo, Christopher Columbus, Copernicus, and Magellan and yet nary a peep from the US media. What does that tell you about our corporate media and their agenda?

    And the IPCC documentation might as well have been written by Andrew Dickson White and called The Warfare of Science with Theology. Check out chapter two for a good laugh. The IPCC follows the same basic scientific method as White, FAITH and POLITICS, FEAR and HYSTERIA, and not SCIENCE. But again, don’t believe me, just ask one of their climatologists.

    • woody188  June 18, 2010 at 12:01 am

      Meant the IPCC follows the same scientific method as the Church, not as stated above. White was against “dogmatic theology” as he termed it.

    • james  June 18, 2010 at 11:16 am

      The gas that plants breathe is carbon dioxide. It is pollution when it reaches a concentration in our atmosphere that will alter the average temperature of the planet enough to disrupt rainfall patterns, agricultural growth, snowfall patterns, polar cap melting and formation, jetstream and ocean currents, intensify desertification and reduce the total amount of freshwater available for drinking on the planet. Our global political system relies on certain stable environmental elements – where crops grow, where fresh water comes from, where is safe to build shelter. When we change the temperature of the planet we change this balance so much that political fallout is inevitable. Starvation, water access, desert formation – these things cause unexpected wars, and wars that have no end because you cannot fix them in a year or two. These are the result of changing water patterns that result from human intervention. The biggest one is the dramatic increase in Carbon Dioxide in our atmosphere which traps heat from the sun, raising the average temperature of the planet and ultimately, breaking the planet’s water cycles. Long story short – some manure makes fertilizer, too much manure makes a cesspool!

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