Is a Hybrid Climate Bill Good Enough?

Photo by talkradionews, <a href="">via Flickr</a>.

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman have said they are ditching cap and trade and instead looking to cut emissions using a “hybrid” approach – a cap on carbon generated by electric utilities, limited trading of pollution permits, and perhaps even a carbon fee on fuels. Details remain scant, but it’s clear that they believe that cap and trade is so politically unpalatable at this point that they need to throw it out. But let’s set the politics aside for a moment. Can senators defend their plan’s environmental goals, if the mission is to cut carbon pollution and create jobs in clean energy? The answer seems to be no, at least according to Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

Speaking at the Progressive Media Summit on the Hill on Wednesday, Boxer maintained the bill she wrote with Kerry that passed out of her committee last November–which looks a lot like the Waxman-Markey bill passed by the House–is the “gold standard” for climate legislation. “I’m for my bill all the way,” said Boxer. “That’s the best way, an economy-wide bill.” Politically though, she acknowledged that her bill doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in a warming planet of passing in 2010, hence the desire to pass a bill with much lower ambitions. “I’m not going to make an argument that the other approach is better,” said Boxer. But, she added, “Is it better than doing nothing? Absolutely.”

David Roberts has a great post on Grist about the many silly things senators have said about the possible future proposal from the three senators. All the chatter from senators focuses on vague disapproval of an economy-wide cap and trade program but no actual articulation of why their as-yet-undefined alternative is better. Because, frankly, if the goal of a bill is to reduce planet-warming gases, it’s not. The hybrid they’ve talked about would only cut emissions in some sectors, leaving others untouched, and is likely to include even more sweeters for dirty energy interests like oil and coal. And even if the mission is also to create jobs — which Democratic leaders have repeatedly emphasized should be the goal — a strong, economy wide cap with complementary policies like a renewable electricity standard are the best way to unlock that potential.

At least Boxer admits that the only appeal of the hybrid approach is political. “Do I support their efforts? Yes,” she said of the work of Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman. “Would I rather have my bill? Yes.”


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend