Skip to main content

The Lieberman-Warner Bill: The Players Line Up

Boxer The Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act tries to come to grips with global warming. Nuclear energy can and likely will make a substantial contribution to the effort but the bill is so freighted with implications for so many vested interests (and their supporters) that getting the bill passed in a coherent form will take a titanic amount of will power and resolve.

The Senate in particular may find this a tough hurdle, in part because the November elections could leave the Democrats with a veto-proof majority - an outside chance, certainly, but a chance. That makes stepping carefully into this bill a priority for the Republicans; they already suffer, rather unfairly, as ecological recidivists in a year in which global warming has become a major issue for voters. Conversely, some Democrats (Lieberman is an Independent who caucuses with the Dems) already see President Bush's opposition and a possible filibuster as bill-killers but gets things set up for the next president.

The measure's sponsors believe that getting a majority of senators to back the bill would be a show of strength, laying the groundwork for passage in the next Congress under a new president.

"However far we take it, it is very important to start now," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and has been shepherding the bill through the Senate.

So there is an aura of political theater here, likely also with an eye on the elections. But:

"It seems unlikely that as American families face harsh economic times that any senator would dare stand on the Senate floor and vote in favor of significantly increasing the price of gas at the pump and costing millions of American jobs - all for no environmental gain," said Matt Dempsey, communications director for Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Remember, Sen. Inhofe is the leading global-warming-is-hooey figure in the Senate. Frankly, despite his best efforts, that ice floe has melted (even if his economic argument mirrors that of President Bush; see below). The timing of this bill is going to make global warming even more of an issue in the upcoming presidential election and for all the down-ticket races as well.


How much does President Bush dislike this bill? He has issued a Statement of Administration Policy that lays it all out for you. The main problem is that the bill, in the administration's view, trades an possible ecological disaster for a likely economic one (warning: pdf):

S. 3036 is likely to severely damage the economy and drive jobs overseas. As an example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Energy Information Administration have estimated, respectively, that the bill as reported could reduce U.S. Gross Domestic Product by as much as seven percent (over $2.8 trillion) in 2050, and reduce U.S. manufacturing output by almost 10 percent in 2030 -- before even half of the bill's required reductions have taken effect.

And that's just the tip of that iceberg. Read all of Bush's statement for a lot more in the same vein. In its present state, which of course will be heavily impacted by amendments that might sweeten it, the bill is a non-starter for the White House.


So, noting the name of this blog, what about nuclear energy?

Nuclear power is likely to be one of the thorniest issues in the debate. Republican opponents of the bill are expected to offer amendments to boost nuclear energy, which critics call "poison pill" amendments because they could erode support for the bill among Democrats who oppose an expansion of nuclear power.

We would counter that many Democrats have found a place for nuclear energy in their thinking - this seems a bit 2002 to us - and that the Republicans know Sen. McCain, a supporter of a larger role for nuclear energy, could swing votes towards the bill. We'll see.

Early days. Stay tuned.

Picture of Senator Boxer, courtesy Getty Images.


Joseph Somsel said…
I guess we just have to admit that the Nuclear Energy Institute is a "special interest" - my special interest, to be sure, but tasked with making government more profitable for only a subset of Americans.

Your assertion that "the ice floe has melted" may sound like Gospel truth inside the Beltway but I sure don't see anything like certainty in the people I talk with, even here in California.

The REAL public debate has just begun. Nothing like higher gasoline and energy taxes to focus the minds of voters.

Popular posts from this blog

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…

Innovation Fuels the Nuclear Legacy: Southern Nuclear Employees Share Their Stories

Blake Bolt and Sharimar Colon are excited about nuclear energy. Each works at Southern Nuclear Co. and sees firsthand how their ingenuity powers the nation’s largest supply of clean energy. For Powered by Our People, they shared their stories of advocacy, innovation in the workplace and efforts to promote efficiency. Their passion for nuclear energy casts a bright future for the industry.

Blake Bolt has worked in the nuclear industry for six years and is currently the work week manager at Hatch Nuclear Plant in Georgia. He takes pride in an industry he might one day pass on to his children.

What is your job and why do you enjoy doing it?
As a Work Week Manager at Plant Hatch, my primary responsibility is to ensure nuclear safety and manage the risk associated with work by planning, scheduling, preparing and executing work to maximize the availability and reliability of station equipment and systems. I love my job because it enables me to work directly with every department on the plant…