Living Up To Lame Duck Status

Bill Scher

President Bush just finished his latest empty speech on global warming. As usual, it was designed to give of appearance of action without actually acting. He did not take questions, presumably because he knows the flimsy rhetoric could not withstand five seconds of scrutiny.

But there’s one thing notable about it. Bush implicitly made clear the White House would not embrace the Lieberman-Warner bill under consideration in the Senate — a bill which would take a step forward yet still fall short of what’s needed to resolve the climate crisis.

Congressional leaders respecting the need for urgent action on global warming have been faced with a tricky strategic decision. Pass a relatively weak compromise bill that could get signed into law. Or, put a truly comprehensive bill on the floor laying out what needs to be done, and if it gets vetoed or filibustered, rally the public to remove the obstructionists and get it done in 2009.

Bush’s stated goal of merely stopping the growth in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 is laughably and tragically way off the mark. Meanwhile, Lieberman-Warner seeks to return to 2005 emissions levels by 2012. And Step It Up insists a freeze in emissions level is needed immediately.

Bush said the “wrong way” to combat climate change “is to raise taxes.” This is the standard conservative talking point, suggesting that a “cap-and-trade” plan found in would raise taxes on everyone, when it would simply make private companies pay when they pollute public sky — money that could be used to invest in renewable energy and lower consumer energy costs.

He also said the “wrong way” is “to unilaterally impose regulatory costs that put American businesses at a disadvantage with their competitors abroad.” That rules out having America take the necessary leadership role if we are get other countries to come along.

There is no way Bush will accept even the incomplete Lieberman-Warner approach, let alone a sufficient strategy.

So why bother with compromise legislation? The public is squarely behind legislation that would truly solve the climate crisis. There’s nothing to be gained from relatively weaker legislation that would both fail to become law and fail to excite the public.

Better to show the way with strong legislation, generate grassroots excitement, and dare conservative obstructionists to stand in the way.

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