‘We will regret it’

‘WE WILL REGRET IT’…. One of the more dramatic disappointments of the year is the apparent failure of comprehensive energy/climate reform*, which seemed to fail with a whimper this week. The Senate Democratic leadership felt like it had no choice but to scrap the effort, at least for now, in the face of an unyielding Republican filibuster.

Thomas Friedman spreads the blame around today, before concluding, “We will regret it.” But instead of a traditional column, Friedman publishes a variety of items — round-up style — a couple of which stood out for me.

For example, our global competitors are thinking ahead while we’re not:

Just as the U.S. Senate was abandoning plans for a U.S. cap-and-trade system, this article ran in The China Daily: “BEIJING — The country is set to begin domestic carbon trading programs during its 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015) to help it meet its 2020 carbon intensity target. The decision was made at a closed-door meeting chaired by Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission … Putting a price on carbon is a crucial step for the country to employ the market to reduce its carbon emissions and genuinely shift to a low-carbon economy, industry analysts said.”

Domestic industries are ready to expand, but they can’t because our Senate is broken:

A day before the climate bill went down, Lew Hay, the C.E.O. of NextEra Energy, which owns Florida Power & Light, one of the nation’s biggest utilities, e-mailed to say that if the Senate would set a price on carbon and requirements for renewal energy, utilities like his would have the price certainty they need to make the big next-generation investments, including nuclear. “If we invest an additional $3 billion a year or so on clean energy, that’s roughly 50,000 jobs over the next five years,” said Hay. (Say goodbye to that.)

And hedge fund manager Jeremy Grantham wrote some wise words in a letter to investors:

“Conspiracy theorists claim to believe that global warming is a carefully constructed hoax driven by scientists desperate for … what? Being needled by nonscientific newspaper reports, by blogs and by right-wing politicians and think tanks? I have a much simpler but plausible ‘conspiracy theory’: the fossil energy companies, driven by the need to protect hundreds of billions of dollars of profits, encourage obfuscation of the inconvenient scientific results. I, for one, admire them for their P.R. skills, while wondering, as always: “Have they no grandchildren?”

* fixed