Two Views on Scope of Energy Bill

Posted June 20, 2010 at 12:37pm

Sens. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) each argued for an energy bill this Congress, but they had very different scopes in mind.

Lieberman, who has been working with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on a broad energy and climate change bill, said his legislation has a chance at passage, even in the runup to a competitive election season.

He estimated that there are 50 Senators who want to vote for a comprehensive bill that includes putting a price on carbon pollution, with 30 opposed and 20 undecided — meaning he would need to win over 10 votes to reach the 60-vote threshold likely needed for passage.

“I think we have got a fighting chance at this,” said Lieberman, who is chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

But he warned against scaling back to a “false” energy bill to get votes.

“The difference between a really strong energy independence bill and one that just is called an energy independence bill is whether we are willing to put a cap on carbon pollution and a price on carbon pollution,” Lieberman said.

But he also said he would be open to a proposal from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel that would limit a carbon cap to the emissions from utilities, saying it would be a “significant step forward.”

But Murkowski, the ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, argued that there is no “political ability to put a price on carbon” and that a utilities-only cap could not get 60 votes for passage in the Senate.

She advocated instead for building on an existing bill that aims to reduce emissions, create greater energy efficiencies and moves toward renewable sources of energy, but does not include a cap-and-trade provision on carbon emissions.

“Let’s build on the art of the possible, instead of requiring, as the president seems to want to do, that we have to have a cap-and-trade piece or it isn’t comprehensive,” Murkowski said.