Climate Change Hits the Fan

Senate Majority Leader announced that he did not have the 60 votes to pass a climate change bill so the Senate was moving on to other business.  This was not new news, but it set off a food fight among the advocates of Waxman-Markey or variations of it to deal with climate change.

The irony was the food fights was mostly an intramural contest on the Democrat side of the aisle.

Environmental groups accused the Obama Administration of not providing enough leadership to get this legislative priority over the finish line.  Leading Democrats in the Senate and House accused the Administration of not having a strategy.  Democrats in difficult competitive races breathed a sigh of relief.  Republicans were also disappointed but for a different reason.

Republicans knew the votes were not there to pass the bill but they relished the prospects of a bruising battle and an ugly defeat for the bill making for a great opportunity to score points and YouTube embarrassing Democrat speeches.

So what?

So we dodged a bullet on this one—for now.  The bill was doomed by the piling on of bad news including:

  • COP15 Meltdown. The Copenhagen conference was supposed to be the global climax of the post Kyoto push for an enforceable treaty to mandate greenhouse gas emissions.  Europe waffled, the US waffled, China said ‘no way’—and the African and Latin American nations that thought they had a gravy train of save the rainforest emissions credit scam opportunities were forced to go back to their day jobs.
  • Waxman-Markey Over-reach.  The bill passed out of the House of Representatives was a thriller setting the stage for a carbon tax regime that only Congress could love.  This was better than owning a printing press for greenbacks.  It went way beyond greenmail and chilled most of the market about the prospects of a huge tax increase as the economy was beginning to recover.
  • ObamaCare Legacy of Mistrust.  The process for approving the health care reforms led the business community to doubt that the many side deals they tried to cut to save themselves in any cap and trade bill might evaporate just like the sweetheart deals in ObamaCare seemed inconsequential when stacked up against the sweeping control of the health segment of the economy the legislation ushers in.  This is the’ be careful what you wish for’ buyer’s remorse.
  • High Unemployment Persists.  Stubbornly high unemployment and the corporate hoarding of cash in fear of a double dip back into recession sent a chilling effect over the hot air for climate change.
  • Climate Gate.  The scandal over climate research and the manipulation of science to get the desired political result effectively destroyed the credibility of the global warming/ climate crisis crowd and not even Al Gore tried hard to defend them.
  • Al Gore’s Unhappy Ending.  It seems the debate in Congress over getting it on for climate change was not the only hot and sweaty shenanigans going on as Al and Tipper split and Al’s wild side got him in trouble.  Opps!

I know I should not display such glee over the failure of the climate change legislative prospects, but in this case no bill is better than almost any bill Congress can get 60 votes to pass.

Some utilities were seduced into favoring or at least not objecting to this bill in a search for certainty over regulations.  This was always folly and most looked like they were selling out the industry for the sake of tax credits and stimulus support.  That most of the original supporters are not giving that speech anymore is a good thing.

So what?

A funny thing is happening on the way to a clean energy future.  Driven by state renewable energy portfolio standards and billions in Federal stimulus we are seeing real increases in market share for wind and solar power.

Corporate America is focused on cleantech for all the right reasons to reduce costs, improve efficiency and gain more control over their energy, water and facilities costs.  The added bonus is bragging rights over which company is the most green.  So be it.

The combination of renewable energy costs, emissions reduction efforts by utilities and states, and smart grid expenditures is driving up utility rates—and higher rates will encourage efficiency.  It also inoculates politicians fresh from a near death experience this November that raising energy costs by imposing energy taxes is a no-win deal.