Energy Bill Update: Senate Version Coming This Week, But Pessimism Remains

solargeneric1The most important U.S. energy legislation, which will put a price on carbon emissions, could be introduced in the Senate as early as Wednesday of this week. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and California Sen. Barbara Boxer plan to introduce a version of the energy bill into the Senate that will look very similar to legislation the House passed back in June, according to Reuters, which quoted anonymous sources.

But despite the likely introduction of the bill this week, many policy watchers aren’t optimistic that it will pass the Senate and get signed into law before the international negotiations in Copenhagen in early December. The Senate has other issues it’s focusing on like health care, which as the Houston Chronicle notes, is being given a higher priority by “top Democratic leaders.”

Republicans as well as some conservative Democrats in the Senate also appear to be unified in opposition against an energy bill in this economic climate. If the Senate legislation looks similar to the House version, we can expect significant opposition to it, as well as a drawn-out negotiation process.

But the rub is that if the U.S. doesn’t pass this climate legislation in 2009 and before the international climate negotiations, which kick off Dec. 7, the negotiations will be seriously negatively effected. While John Holdren, White House science and technology director, tried to downplay to a group of reporters last week the effect of not passing the bill in time for Copenhagen, the situation is clearly urgent. As Al Gore explained last week at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting in New York, the success of Copenhagen hinges on the Senate’s progress on legislation that would limit the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. “The road to Copenhagen goes through the U.S. Senate,” Gore said.

Without U.S. legislation that puts a price on carbon, Copenhagen won’t have the teeth that many were hoping it would. European leaders are already upset. The European Union’s ambassador to the U.S., John Bruton, recently accused the Senate of “dragging its feet” and threatening the international negotiations. If the Senate doesn’t act on the energy bill within 2009, it “would open the United States to the charge that it does not take its international commitments seriously, and that these commitments will always take second place to domestic politics,” Bruton told the Wall Street Journal. Harsh, but true.

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