Senate majority leader Harry Reid, along Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, announced today they are abandoning attempts to bring a comprehensive energy and climate legislation to the Senate floor for debate. Cap and trade, at least for now, is dead in Congress.
Given the political climate in Washington, where extending unemployment benefits warrants a filibuster, proponents of a bill capping carbon, even if just for the utilities sector, admit it is simply not possible - even if a price on carbon is eventually inevitable.
Senator Kerry, the bill's lead sponsor, acknowledged from the start that forging any bipartisan support for an energy and climate bill would be difficult, and today said that such support wasn't going to happen:
We've always known from day one that to pass comprehensive energy reform, you've got to have 60 votes," said Kerry. "As we stand here today we don't have one Republican vote."
A development that Nevada Senator Reid said was "terribly disappointing:"
Many of us want to do a thorough, comprehensive bill," Reid told reporters. "Unfortunately, at this time, we don't have a single Republican to help us with that goal."
Instead of even a severely watered-down climate and energy bill, Reid said he and his colleagues will focus in the coming weeks on a narrower bill aimed at holding "BP accountable" for the disaster in the Gulf and measures to improve energy efficiency. Notably lacking in any such bill, besides carbon pricing, is any sort of renewable energy standard, which had been expected to pass through the Congressional morass irrespective of the fate of carbon caps.
Senate democrats, with support from many in the utility sector like Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, still hope to pass legislation placing caps on emissions for utilities - a so-called "utility first" bill. Rogers wrote a letter (pdf) to Reid yesterday urging Congress to address the carbon emission issue.
I urge you to include a utility carbon title in your base energy bill that allows this country to move forward in a way that will protect consumers, helps us to modernize our power generation and put Americans back to work," wrote Rogers in part.
Democrats will continue to work on mustering the needed support for a comprehensive energy and climate bill, and Kerry made clear that the scaled down bill soon to be proposed does not replace such effort:
Let me be clear," said Kerry, "this legislation ... does not replace climate legislation; it does not replace comprehensive energy legislation"