25 September 2009

Obama's "Plan B" on Climate

When Administration officials are openly talking about what happens if legislation does not pass on the time frame that they have proposed, it is a pretty good indication that it is not going to pass on that time frame. Thus, the comments of one Obama Administration official yesterday are notable:
President Barack Obama is drawing up a 'Plan B' to regulate greenhouse gases if the US Senate fails to pass legislation needed to mandate the new administration to negotiate an international climate treaty at crunch talks in December, a senior official said yesterday (24 September).

Stopping in Brussels on a European speaking tour, Dennis Leaf, a senior adviser at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sought to ease European fears that the US will not be ready to sign up to a successor to the Kyoto Protocol if the Senate does not pass domestic climate legislation, including a cap-and-trade scheme, ahead of Copenhagen.

The climate bill got through the House of Representatives in June, but only by a very narrow margin. Indeed, a repeat of the majority achieved in the lower chamber would not see the law through the Senate, where 60 out of 100 votes are required for approval.

"The president wants comprehensive legislation, but at the same time there's a back-up plan," Leaf said.

The US official noted that overarching legislation is the best way to reduce emissions considering the wide range of interests involved, from agriculture to energy and the environment. But he added that as a plan B, the president is setting up a regulatory system that will allow the US to regulate greenhouse gases under the existing Clean Air Act.