The Kerry-Graham Op-Ed: Toward an All-of-the-Above Energy Policy for Meeting Our Economic, Security & Climate Objectives

Climate action advocates got a jolt Sunday morning from an op-ed written by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in The New York Times. The op-ed sketched out an energy-climate agreement that would combine aggressive greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions with expanded nuclear power, more oil and gas drilling off our coasts, border taxes to protect energy-intensive, trade-exposed manufacturers from imports produced without strong environmental protections, and a price collar on GHG allowances (establishing a floor and ceiling for the cost of emission allowances). I can’t think of anybody who won’t hate at least one part of this formula – certainly we at the Pew Center would offer some important tweaks. But Kerry and Graham have posed a tough question: Are we truly ready to hammer out an all-of-the-above energy policy that meets our economic, security and climate objectives?

Before you answer, keep this in mind: there is no partisan option for passing a climate and energy bill in the Senate. In the House, where 256 out of 435 Representatives are Democrats, even when 44 voted against the Waxman-Markey bill (with 8 Republicans voting for it), it passed. In the Senate, we need 60 votes to pass a bill, there are exactly 60 Democrats, and everybody expects at least a handful of them to vote against any serious climate bill, meaning that at least that number of Republicans will have to vote for a bill in order to pass it. The good news is that the Senate has a history of real Republican leadership on the climate issue. Nine current Republican Senators have written, cosponsored, voted for, or spoken in favor of mandatory GHG reductions – for the most part through cap-and-trade, some of them ahead of their time. We know of at least five more who would engage in the crafting of a climate bill if left to their own devices. The bad news is that the mood in the Senate this year has been bitterly and famously partisan.

The Kerry-Graham op-ed is the strongest ray of bipartisan hope we’ve seen on the climate issue this year. It took real guts on the part of both Senators, and it is potentially game changing. No one is going to love all the particulars – but then no one is going to love all the particulars of any climate-energy bill that has a chance of enactment in this Congress.

Manik Roy is Vice President, Federal Government Outreach