During the giant snowstorms that pummeled much of the East Coast last winter, Senator James Inhofe's family pleased the grand old man of climate change denialism by erecting an igloo near the U.S. Capitol and hanging a sign on it that read "Al Gore's new home."
So, you know the greens would try to turn the tables on Inhofe's stunt as soon as the humid swelter hit DC in all the oppressive force that summer weather in the nation's swampy capital is known for. Sure enough, last week, they erected an ice sculpture, shaped into the words "Climate Deniers," in broad daylight in front of the Capitol, so the assembled reporters could dutifully watch it melt into a tepid puddle.
In both cases, a good time was had by all. It's unlikely, however, that any minds were changed in either case. And, let me say, for the umpteenth time: Short-term weather phenomena should not be exploited to spin conclusions about long-term climate trends.
Speaking of climate trends, I regularly tell friends that the nation's capital should be moved to Santa Barbara. At the very least, the balmy Mediterranean climate and beach town casualness would take some of the edge off the ill will that pollutes political debates on the great issues of the day.
Anyway, to borrow one of Donald Rumsfeld's famous aphorisms, we have to deal with politics we have, not the politics we wish we had.
The politics we have is that energy and climate legislation is endlessly difficult. Harry Reid plans to ante up an energy bill the week of July 26. Odds of the Senate passing an economy-wide cap on greenhouse gas emissions are, to put things mildly, not good. Senate Democrats are casting around to see if it's possible to round up 60 votes for a scaled-back cap on greenhouse gas emissions one that would be applied only to power plants.
The word is that utilities are willing to consider taking a cap ahead of other industry sectors if Congress will cut them some slack on other Clean Air Act requirements namely looming EPA rules on pollutants that brew up lung-searing ozone and dangerous particulate matter, as well as mercury and other airborne toxins.
Anytime you have deal-hungry lawmakers trying to cobble together a bill in the waning days of a congressional session, you're at the point on the map that should be labeled "here be dragons."
A price on greenhouse gas emissions is essential for reducing the carbon pollution that the preponderance of the evidence shows is trapping heat energy in the atmosphere at unprecedented rates, and to give businesses the certainty they need to invest in energy technologies that do not exacerbate the problem.
Air pollution from coal-fired power plants kills people thousands of them, every year. Trading away legal authority to force significant reductions in that pollution in order to get a carbon emissions cap would not be a good deal. Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who has worked up bipartisan legislation to slash power plant emissions, put it best in an interview with Environment & Energy Daily: "You mean to spew more sulfur, nitrogen and mercury, and less carbon? That's not my idea of progress."
It shouldn't be anyone's idea of progress. Reid and company should watch their step in the coming week that they don't give away the store.
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