The Senate to Climate Change Advocates: Drop Dead

The death of the energy bill has left a lot of people pointing fingers at each other, and a lot of people wondering if we cannot now take action on climate change,  then when—and by whom? A Washington Post article today identifies some very unhappy House Democrats who went out on limb last year to support the energy bill and combat climate change. They now understandably feel hung out to dry.  I think that the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman best summarizes the events of the last few days: “Greed, aided by cowardice has triumphed.”

The Senate leadership is now working on a skeletal version of what once was a comprehensive energy bill. But instead of a steak dinner, the Senate intends to serve up some peas next week. From preliminary reports, the central vision of the bill is raising the liability for oil spills. An energy bill—hardly. No one will be particularly happy.

I have spent a good deal of my career working on developing legal infrastructure in newly independent countries. One of the constant refrains in my work has been promote a stable legal regime that is transparent, stable and predictable. The fits and starts on energy legislation undermines the support for renewable energy in general, and solar in particular. The Time’s Ecocentric Blog, summarizes the hazards of our inabilityto undertake a long-term policy supporting renewable energy: “Too often U.S. policy on renewable power has been like a truck stuck in rush-hour traffic: stop-and-start. Generous tax subsidies help the wind or solar grow—but when they’re allowed the expire, the industry suddenly collapses.” Without leadership, we will miss yet another opportunity to combat climate change.