After hours and hours of debate, the Senate voted down Senator Lisa Murkowski's (R-AK) amendment to reverse the EPA's finding that greenhouse gasses harm the environment, 53-47. This amendment was also known as the "Big Oil Bailout" because if it had passed, greenhouse gasses would no longer have been considered a pollutant and we could blithely skip down the garden path burning oil, polluting more wetlands with spilled oil, and killing more animals.
It was enormously frustrating to me (but not surprising) to see six Democrats vote with Republicans. For the record, Senators Bayh, Lincoln, Rockefeller, Nelson (Neb), Pryor and Landrieu all voted for the amendment.
One of the more remarkable moments in the debate leading up to the vote was Senator Lindsey Graham, who twists like a pretzel in his efforts not to deny the science while still supporting ending the EPA's authority to make this finding and enforce it.
From the CSPAN transcript:
The tool being used here today is a legislative tool available to the Congress to basically put regulatory powers in check and what we're doing by passing this amendment is basically stopping the EPA from regulating carbon. And here's the real rub.
If we stop them, are we going to do anything?
And my view is that we need to do several things to replace the EPA. The EPA regulation of carbon cannot provide transition assistance to Businesses. They don't have the flexibility, the tools necessary to create rational energy policy that wouldn't create an economic burden at a time we need to create economic opportunity.
So the regulatory system of dealing with carbon pollution, I think, is the wrong way to go. But to do nothing would be equally bad.
To do nothing means that China is going to develop the green energy technology that's coming in the 21st century.
He then goes on to say that the way forward is to take aim at the transportation industry in order to replenish the Highway Trust Fund and then use those funds for more efficient mass transportation. (I think).
Then he gets to the BP Oil Disaster. Here's where it gets weirder and weirder.
The Gulf Oil Spill is a tremendous catastrophic environmental disaster, but if we overreact and say that we're going to stop exploring for domestic oil and gas, 9 million barrels a day comes from domestic drill, the people of the mideast would share that policy.
The biggest winner of stopping domestic drilling would be OPEC nations.
So it is not in our national security interest, it is not in our economic interest to make a rash decision on oil and gas exploration.
Now...wait for it. You can almost guess what's coming next:
I would encourage the Congress to slow down, find ways to safely explore for oil and gas, and make it part of an overall energy vision that will allow us to break our dependency on foreign oil.
He wraps up his argument with this:
Carbon is bad. Let's do something about it in an economy-sense way. You don't have to believe in global warming to want clean air.
Oh, and this:
You don't have to believe that the planet will melt tomorrow but this idea that what comes out of cars and trucks and coal-fired plants is good for us makes no sense to me. Ladies and gentlemen, we would be doing this world a great service if we could clean up the air in America...here's the key to it:
Can you clean up the air and make it good business? I believe you can.
The usually-sanguine Ezra Klein calls Graham's argument what it is: Calculated nonsense.