After Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) unveiled an energy bill Tuesday that was so watered down from earlier versions that it was practically leaking on the carpet, President Obama insisted that he was still committed to meaningful action on climate change. "I want to emphasize it's only the first step. And I intend to keep pushing for broader reform, including climate legislation," Obama said in the Rose Garden. If we could harness that hot air, we could power a small city.
Amid tough fights over healthcare and financial reform, Obama's push for cleaner energy ran out of gas long ago. It looked like a losing battle anyway; with Senate Republicans universally opposing a cap-and-trade program or other efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, and some Democrats in heavy manufacturing states also opposed, it may have been impossible to round up the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster on a Senate energy bill as strong as the one passed by the House last year. But that doesn't excuse Obama or Reid for surrendering so easily, or so completely.
The latest Senate energy bill, which Reid claims is the best he could get through his chamber, raises the cap on damage payments by oil companies involved in harmful spills and contains billions in financial incentives for home weatherization and natural gas-powered vehicles. But not only does it jettison cap and trade, it doesn't even contain a renewable energy standard — a set percentage of electricity that must come from renewable sources such as the sun and wind. That's not just a disappointment to environmentalists; it's a blow to the stalled renewable power industry.