May 19, 2024

In Washington, Climate and Energy Moves A Bit


Now that passage of health care legislation proved that Congress is still capable of acting on big ideas, Washington this week was aflutter with action on the climate and energy bill. White House Legislative Affairs Director Phil Schiliro, and the president’s energy and climate adviser, Carol Browner, met mid-week with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Topic: developing a strategy to corral the 60 votes needed to pass the measure in the Senate.

The same day the chairmen of several Senate committees with jurisdiction over climate and energy met with Reid. And Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman spent time with freshman Democrats on the proposal the three senior lawmakers are hoping to introduce in April.

Letters in support of comprehensive action on climate and clean energy also are flying around Washington. One of those freshman Democrats, Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, drafted and sent to Reid a letter signed by 21 other Democrats that urged a vote before the end of the year.

“Our lack of a comprehensive clean energy policy hurts job creation and increases regulatory uncertainty throughout our economy,” wrote Udall. “Businesses are waiting on Congress before investing billions in energy, transportation, manufacturing, building and other sectors.” The letter came just a few days after the senator’s father, Stewart L. Udall, the Interior secretary for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and one of the 20th century’s greatest environmental leaders, died at age 90.

Another letter, signed by 23 climate action groups was sent to the White House, the EPA, and five cabinet secretaries urging the administration to make good on the commitments it made in Copenhagen. The Copenhagen Accord, negotiated in the climate summit’s final hours by President Obama and the heads of 20 other nations, calls for $30 billion in international aid over the next three years to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and to support adaptation, technology development, and capacity building. The accord also encouraged developed nations to commit to “mobilizing jointly $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries.”

“As leaders in the Senate finalize a new approach to comprehensive climate and energy legislation,” said the letter, “we urge you to work to ensure that the Senate bill includes significant and predictable investments in international action to combat climate change and its consequences.”

There was new light focused this week on the dangerous campaign by the fossil fuel industry and its allies to discredit climate science and clean energy. Greenpeace published “Dealing in Doubt: The Climate Denial Industry and Climate Science,” that reports on the 20-year effort to block progress with specious attacks on the science, and accuses ExxonMobil of being the ringleader.

And six months after NRDC blogger Pete Altman \reported that a Danish study critical of Danish wind energy was financed by an American activist think tank with financial ties to oil-rich Koch Industries, that revealing connection generated headlines in Europe.  (

Pretty good week for climate and clean energy action in Washington.

— Keith Schneider

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