Scaling back climate expectations even more

SCALING BACK CLIMATE EXPECTATIONS EVEN MORE…. Yesterday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) made one of the more depressing comments of the week, saying, “The climate bill isn’t going to stop the oil leak. The first thing you have to do is stop the oil leak.”

This, of course, was a seasoned Democratic senator practically reading the Republican talking points, word for word. The message, at its core, is absurd. Obviously, combating climate change will not stop oil gushing into the Gulf, but since senators can’t plug the leak anyway, they might choose to make good use of their time by approving a comprehensive energy/climate bill that would make more drilling less necessary in the future.

All evidence now suggests actually dealing with global warming isn’t going to happen. The White House is still committed to cap-and-trade, but the prospects of a grand bargain producing 60 votes have all but disappeared.

Obama went into full woo-mode Wednesday after his Tuesday night address to the nation, meeting with moderate Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and inviting a bipartisan group of Senators to the White House next week for a high-stakes powwow to jump-start the issue, which has languished in the Senate in the year since the House passed its sweeping cap-and-trade climate bill.

Moderates in both parties said that an energy bill of some sort was a real possibility, but a cap on carbon emissions or a new carbon tax probably won’t be in the mix.

Brown said after the meeting with the president that he wasn’t interested in backing a national energy tax or a cap-and-trade proposal, “but I am very excited about working with him in a bipartisan manner to come up with a comprehensive energy plan to address a whole host of issues — wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, geothermal, conservation, incentivizing businesses.”

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) told Roll Call, “At the end of the day, my guess is [the White House] won’t push [cap-and-trade] that hard. I think the president wants it. … I just don’t think there’s 60 votes to do that, even with the oil spill.”

“Even with the oil spill” seems like the key part of those comments. In effect, we’re looking at a rare opportunity — the last, best chance to pass a modest, reasonable package to reduce carbon emissions and finally address the climate crisis. And “even with the oil spill,” the Senate just doesn’t want to.

It will be years before anyone even tries to consider such a plan, and the problem will only keep getting worse.