Climate Change and the Oil Barons

The Senate spent last night—all night—focusing attention on climate change and the need for new legislation. As The Hill reports, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used the opportunity to attack the Koch brothers:

“It’s time to stop acting like those who ignore this crisis — the oil baron Koch brothers and their allies in Congress — have a valid point of view,” Reid said Monday evening. “But despite overwhelming scientific evidence and overwhelming public opinion, climate change deniers still exist. They exist in this country and in this Congress.”

The implication, of course, is that the “un-American” Koch brothers (and those who Senator Reid has described as “addicted to Koch”) are responsible for the failure to move forward on climate change (and all other things pure and good).

Of course, the House did pass a climate change bill (Waxman-Markey) in 2010, only to have the bill declared DOA by…Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. As the New York Times reported (July 22, 2010):

Bowing to political reality, Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and majority leader, said the Senate would not take up legislation intended to reduce carbon emissions blamed as a cause of climate change, but would instead pursue a more limited measure focused on responding to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and tightening energy efficiency standards.

“We know where we are,” Mr. Reid told reporters after reviewing the state of energy legislation with Senate Democrats and administration officials. “We know that we don’t have the votes.”

Following the election of Scott Brown (R-MA), the Democrats had lost their ability to block a filibuster (and it was clear that some Democrats would not support cap-and-trade).* But  let us assume (as I do) that climate change is a critically important issue. An advocate of policy change might have observed that unified Democratic control of the government will prove fleeting, and climate change legislation will likely face no chances of passage in the 112th Congress. Under these conditions, one would expect the Majority Leader to do more than declare defeat and move on to the next fundraiser. Indeed,  I suspect that the Majority Leader was quite happy to declare Waxman-Markey DOA for a simple reason: he was concerned less about a change in climate than possible change in the partisan control of the Senate in the upcoming 2010 midterm elections.  Look as hard as you want, it is hard to see the fingerprints of “the oil baron Koch brothers” on this one.

*Although cap-and-trade was remarkably successful in addressing acid rain (under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments), there is a strong argument that a carbon tax would prove more effective in managing climate change and would provide fewer opportunities for transfer-seeking. For policy advocates, it is a matter of debate whether “no policy” is superior to cap-and-trade.

3 thoughts on “Climate Change and the Oil Barons

      1. And, of course, tax and dividend. On occasion, I wonder whether one could build a green-gray coalition by developing a carbon tax and committing the revenues to long-term unfunded liabilities. Then I remember that the number of climate skeptics is likely the same as the number of people who deny that there is an unfunded liability crisis on the horizon. Urgh!

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