White House Climate/Energy Meeting

By Libby Casey

Both of Alaska’s Senators attended a White House meeting today on climate change and energy legislation.  They were among a group of 23 Senators summoned by President Obama to the closed-door meeting to talk over policy.

The White House called it a “constructive exchange” and said the President is still pushing for putting a price on carbon because that would make clean energy profitable, and hold polluting companies responsible.

Some of the Democrats leading the charge on a climate change bill, including Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, say they’re willing to compromise on how to price pollution…  and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman told reporters afterward that some Republicans seemed willing to negotiate on a scaled-back carbon pricing scheme.

But Senator Lisa Murkowski – whose opinion carries weight in the G-O-P since she’s the Energy Committee’s top Republican, says she isn’t seeing members of her party bending on that.

He may sense that on his side of the aisle.  You’ve got an awful lot of members on his side that want to do a full on economy-wide.  So if some of them are changing their position and changing it to a sector approach, that is a difference.  I don’t know if he would even declare that’s a level of consensus.

Murkowski is against Cap and Trade, and instead wants to minimize the focus to match the bill her Energy Committee advanced last year, which includes oil and natural gas development, incentives for green technology, and reducing emissions.  Murkowski says the schemes she’s seen for pricing carbon don’t have her support.

Now the President mentioned, appropriately so, that the thing that Americans are thinking about foremost right now is jobs and the state of our economy.  That’s why I believe that a Cap and Trade provision will not be included, because that is a hit to our economy that we simply cannot afford at this point in time.

Alaska Senator Mark Begich sounded more optimistic after today’s White House meeting:

Today was really a good discussion, talk about all the different legislation, where people are, and it’s clear that in that room, people want to get an energy plan put together.  Obviously there are disagreements but I think there seemed to be some willingness.

Begich said in advance of the meeting that he thinks momentum is growing to move forward on a climate bill.  He says Republicans are dangling “Cap and Trade” as a target because it’s language that’s politically unpopular, but he says that’s not productive, because there are other ways to go about pricing carbon.

What you’re going to find at the end of the day is a mechanism that industry agrees with that recognizes polluters will pay for a portion of this cost.  And that consumers will reap the benefit financially in some form.  That’s the mechanism we’re gonna go down.

Begich says he doesn’t think the Senate will be able to pass the full-fledged climate change Kerry-Lieberman bill before the November elections, but he thinks it can move forward on some elements.

This is a two-parter.  We won’t win it before November.  But it’s not winning the battle, sometimes you lose the battle but win the war.  In this situation the country is way ahead of us on this.  And politicians sitting around here playing election year politics ae gonna cut their own throats.  We have to be careful about the short term thinkers around here.  Not thinking about the long term health of the economy.  The national security position — we are not in a good position today because we’re depending on foreign oil, and we’re second to countries like China, it’s unacceptable.

The House has already passed an aggressive climate change bill.  Both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate say whatever goes before their body won’t be as sweeping.


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