It’s becoming clear that we’re not going to see a climate and energy bill in 2010. Harry Reid has backed off his timeline of starting the debate next week, now saying “We’re going to make a decision in the near future.” John Kerry and Joe Lieberman are playing for time as well.
What does this mean for the other parts of the bill that were going to be shoehorned into a climate and energy package? The problem with big bills is that when they fall, a lot of other pieces fall as well. The carried interest loophole remains unclosed because it was attached to a tax extenders bill that went off the rails. The same with the summer youth jobs program. In this case, we have a series of oil spill response initiatives that are waiting for inclusion in a climate bill that doesn’t look like it’s coming. The House has seen multiple measures pass committees and are formulating a standalone bill. But as long as the Senate waits and waits and tries to thread the needle on a larger package, with the oil spill piece key to inclusion so they can cast the other side as failing to respond to the BP disaster, none of it will become law. And we’ll still have this $75 million dollar liability cap, and new drilling safety standards won’t be mandated by Congress, nor will any of this become law:
That bill would overhaul Interior Department oversight, require many new safeguards, impose new fees on oil and natural gas production and end some royalty waivers for offshore producers, among many other measures.
It also contains a provision dubbed “use it or lose it” that empowers Interior to yank leases from companies that are not taking “diligent” steps to develop them. Such provisions have been kicking around Democratic bills for years — their supporters argue that oil companies pushing to open new areas are sometimes failing to develop their existing tracts.
“Use it or lose it” in particular is a great idea, because it would actually either encourage actual use of the leases or revert it back to the Feds for more productive purposes. Oil companies want these leases on their books to prove to the markets that they have reserves in waiting. They don’t want to drill on them at all. Their hands should be forced.
But we’ll get none of that if we let the Senate hold out against hope on a climate bill. It’s fun to have academic debates about the utility-only cap versus industry-wide cap and trade versus a carbon tax versus a rules-based approach, but I don’t see a path to even 50 votes materializing, let alone the 60 that would be needed to cut off cloture. At any rate, the Senate needs to make its decision, perhaps even breaking the whole thing into parts, and start forcing some Republicans to make bad votes.