Bipartisan cap and trade?

BIPARTISAN CAP AND TRADE?…. After some lengthy delays, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) unveiled legislation about two weeks ago to address global warming. After watching the House pass its cap-and-trade bill in June, Kerry and Boxer were finally getting the Senate in the game, presenting a fairly ambitious, progressive piece of legislation.

At the Capitol Hill event to unveil the bill, nine senators were on hand to show their support. None of the nine was Republican. It suggested that we’d see yet another bitter, partisan fight about one of the nation’s (and the world’s) most pressing issues.

It’s why this New York Times op-ed is a very encouraging sign.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the prospect of Congress passing a comprehensive climate change bill soon is rapidly approaching zero. The divisions in our country on how to deal with climate change are deep. Many Democrats insist on tough new standards for curtailing the carbon emissions that cause global warming. Many Republicans remain concerned about the cost to Americans relative to the environmental benefit and are adamant about breaking our addiction to foreign sources of oil.

However, we refuse to accept the argument that the United States cannot lead the world in addressing global climate change. We are also convinced that we have found both a framework for climate legislation to pass Congress and the blueprint for a clean-energy future that will revitalize our economy, protect current jobs and create new ones, safeguard our national security and reduce pollution.

Our partnership represents a fresh attempt to find consensus that adheres to our core principles and leads to both a climate change solution and energy independence. It begins now, not months from now — with a road to 60 votes in the Senate.

The piece was written by Kerry and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a conservative Republican from South Carolina. After acknowledging their differences, the two wrote, “[W]e speak with one voice in saying that the best way to make America stronger is to work together to address an urgent crisis facing the world.”

A Politico piece noted, “Graham’s support is a major win for climate supporters, who are seeking Republican support for climate legislation.” Joe Romm labeled this a “breakthrough.”

Now, keep in mind, Kerry seems to have accepted quite a few concessions to secure the conservative South Carolinian’s support. Their bipartisan bill uses “a market-based system” (cap and trade) as part of their “aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that cause climate change.” On the other hand, their initiative also proposes additional drilling, more nuclear investment, and new incentives for companies that “develop carbon capture and sequestration technology” (i.e., “clean coal”).

That said, it seemed extremely unlikely that, less than two weeks after Kerry and Boxer presented their bill, Kerry and Lindsey Graham would have a joint op-ed in the New York Times on energy policy reform. Three weeks ago, the odds of the Senate passing bill an energy bill were “next to nothing. As of 11 days ago, the odds were “better, but still a long shot.”

And this morning, as Romm noted, “The odds of a Senate climate bill just jumped through the roof. Now the Senate needs to get off its butt and get this done.”

Time is of the essence. If the basic framework of a deal can be locked down over the next six or seven weeks, the administration won’t have to go to Copenhagen empty handed.