Collapse of Climate Bill Blow to Green Sector’s Hopes

The much-anticipated announcement of a bipartisan climate bill today has been indefinitely postponed after its lone Republican sponsor abandoned the effort over the weekend.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who had been working with Democratic Senator John Kerry and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman on the bill, walked away from negotiations after reports that the Democratic Senate leadership would move forward on an immigration bill instead of, or at the same time as, the climate bill.

Graham called the decision, by Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, to place the climate bill behind as-yet unwritten immigration legislation “a cynical political ploy.” Reid is facing a difficult re-election fight, and his home state, Nevada, has a large Latino population.

Graham’s defection deals a serious blow to the bill’s prospects, which was already viewed skeptically by both Republicans and Democrats (and Greenpeace), but may have been the best hopes for a comprehensive climate bill, given that it actually had a Republican backer–and one with pretty conservative credentials. 

Some sort of climate legislation that puts a price on carbon emissions, which the bill does, would be a boon to the cleantech sector. That’s because by codifying some carbon controls, even watered-down as they inevitably would be, the legislation would give industry and investors what they need most: a clearer regulatory picture with which to plan future development.

Instead, there is more confusion, with some Democrats telling Politico that the bill is far from dead, while Graham’s people insist “there is no timeline” for moving forward on the bill.

Just Friday, Senator Kerry had spoken to a consortium of companies, including many renewable energy companies, about details of the bill. Kerry had expressed confidence that he would have the support of three major oil companies for the bill.

Kerry said in a statement that “we will continue to work, and we will do everything necessary to be ready when the moment presents itself,” according to the New York Times.

Luckily, the last six months have shown that the cleantech business can survive and grow on its own, even without clear signals from Washington. What the sector would look like WITH that help we may only be able to imagine.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.

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