Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Centrist Dems working on alternative that would kill U.S. exports more slowly than cap and trade

With the Senate cap-and-trade bill on ice for the foreseeable future, a key bloc of Democrats is agitating for a Climate Plan B: an existing energy policy bill they say would put the US on the path to a clean energy future. Make that a road to nowhere. The bill in question lacks any kind of cap on carbon, and contains so many concessions to the oil, coal, gas, and nuclear industries that one environmental group has dubbed it a "flashback to Bush energy policy."

For months, a gaggle of centrist Democrats has tried to convince the party's leaders that they should abandon their push for a cap-and-trade scheme and instead settle for passing the energy measure that was approved by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee last June. When Republican Scott Brown seized Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts Senate seat in an upset victory, these Plan B proponents saw their chance. Since then, they've been vigorously arguing that capping carbon is a huge political risk that Democrats can't afford to take in an election year. "They're using uncertainty over the Obama agenda as a whole to reinvigorate their push," said Joe Mendelson, director of global warming policy at the National Wildlife Federation.

The Plan B crowd includes Democratic senators Jim Webb, Mary Landrieu, Evan Bayh, Ben Nelson, Kent Conrad, Byron Dorgan, Mark Pryor, and Blanche Lincoln. It could also potentially pick up the Republicans who voted the energy measure out of committee: senators Lisa Murkowski, Sam Brownback, Bob Corker, and Jeff Sessions.

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