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Murkowski Resolution Fails: Humdingers from the Debate

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A move to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, led by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, failed Thursday afternoon. After hours of debate, the Senate rejected the resolution with a final tally of 47-53.

Six Democrats crossed the aisle to vote with Murkowski, including Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller and Blanche Lincoln, who narrowly won her runoff in Arkansas this week thanks in part to campaigning by former President Bill Clinton. Not one Republican voted against the resolution.

Throughout the day (I followed C-SPAN’s live webcast), Senators weighed in with statements running the gamut from old hat to astounding and even chilling. The outcome of the vote itself is not surprising, but the debate shed light on some core hurdles for the kind of climate and energy legislation that could help accelerate growth of the market for many greentech ventures in the U.S. Here’s some of the highlights, low points and humdingers from Thursday’s debate:

Greening Transportation: Sen. Lindsey Graham said the transportation sector “needs to be looked at anew,” in terms of how to regulate it, reduce emissions and spur efficiency improvements. He has recently backed off earlier support for a firm cap on carbon emissions.

Graham came out in favor of Sen. Dick Lugar’s efficiency-focused energy bill, presented on Wednesday as an alternative to the tougher proposal the South Carolina Republican initially helped craft with Senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman.

Auto Industry’s Stance: Sen. Barbara Boxer emphasized that the auto industry and auto workers opposed blocking the EPA’s authority. The move would “unravel” what Boxer called a “historic agreement” on fuel economy, referring to the country’s first ever national regulation to curb greenhouse gas emissions and raise the bar on efficiency requirements for new cars and trucks, finalized in April with support from consumer and environmental groups, as well as car manufacturers.

That Big Bugaboo, China: “All the green technology we’re going to need in this century is going to come from China if we don’t get our act together,” said Graham.

Learning from VCs: Sen. Barbara Boxer said passing the Murkowski resolution would mean “we have no new model for economic growth, as we’ve learned from our venture capitalists,” and from Thomas Friedman “who has been so clear on this.”

The BP Oil Spill: Graham said during his statement that “You cannot separate this debate our from our dependence on foreign oil.” Inhofe argued, however, that there is no reason to talk about the Murkowski resolution in the context of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Sen. Blanche Lincoln criticized how the BP spill has been linked, in the media and by public officials, to climate and energy policy. “If people had listened to what was on the TV,” during her recent primary campaign, she said, “they would have thought I single handedly was responsible” for the spill.

Lest You Think We’ve Gotten Past This: Inhofe, who does not believe human activity is contributing to climate change, spoke at length about his shocking revelation that “catastrophic global warming” caused by “anthropogenic CO2” is “a fraud.”

Unhappy Bedfellows: Science and Politics: “If we go down this path,” overturning the EPA’s finding that greenhouse gas emissions are harmful to human health and welfare, said Sen. Barbara Boxer, “it means any scientific finding is subject to politics.”

On Winners and Losers: “We could have decided to stand with the polluters,” by voting in favor of the Murkowski resolution, Boxer said immediately following today’s vote, “or we could have decided, which we did decide, with those who are looking out for our kids.”

If you followed the debate, too, let us know in the comments section what stood out to you.

Top screen grab image via C-SPAN

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2 Responses to “Murkowski Resolution Fails: Humdingers from the Debate”

  1. Thanks for giving us a summary of the debate, Josie. How are Graham’s statements arguments in favor of this resolution? Yes, we need to reduce emissions and spur efficiency improvements, which EPA regulation will aid. Yes, we need to drastically kick our renewable industry into gear, which EPA regulation will help motivate. Yes, we are addicted to foreign oil; only by making our fossil fuel consumption more expensive (hey, might EPA regulation do that?) will traditional capitalists start to take notice. Am I missing something?

    • I’m with you that the resolution would not have supported the goals described in these couple excerpts from Graham’s statement yesterday. I guess the only part you might be “missing” would be that a lot of Senators seemed to want to register their disapproval yesterday for EPA regulation rather than a legislative solution. Of course, the endangerment finding doesn’t prevent Congress from acting. But hey, this is politics.