Thursday’s editorial praises U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s compromise proposal on climate-change and energy-independence legislation.
Three years ago, when U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham announced his support for a bipartisan immigration compromise to increase border security, reform the visa system and crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, hard-core immigration opponents seized on the bill's path to citizenship for undocumented workers already in the U.S. as “amnesty” and managed to derail the entire effort.
Undaunted, Graham has returned to the fray, announcing this month his support for a “tripartisan” energy reform framework with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). The framework has two broad arms – curbing carbon pollution while creating new energy sources – that should provide a pathway to compromise.
Their legislation would reduce emissions to about 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 (less drastic than a 20 percent cut in the Democrats' bill) through the controversial cap-and-trade program, which creates pollution permits that clean-energy producers could sell to larger polluters, effectively subsidizing clean energy at polluters' expense. New manufacturing jobs would then arise to produce the massive devices to gather wind and solar power. Meanwhile, the senators promise protections for American industry against foreign competitors not working under similar pollution restraints, and consumers would get their own subsidies against any increase in energy costs.
Cap-and-trade is the piece of the bill already being demonized as “amnesty” was during the immigration debate – at the expense of the other half of the bill. To push the country toward energy independence, the bill would promote all forms of domestic energy production.
Incentives to conserve energy and
to spur the development of wind and solar technologies – the paths favored by
environmentalists – are part of the bill, but so are provisions long favored by
conservatives. New areas would be opened to oil and natural-gas drilling, and
states would be allowed to keep part of the royalties from any energy produced.
The coal industry would receive substantial protections, and the nuclear
regulations would be restructured to increase its role in
This bill is only a framework, and
the senators say they are open to changes to get it to 60 votes. One possible
substitution, for example, is another bipartisan compromise recently announced
by Sens. Maria Cantwell (a
The senators point out that carbon pollution will soon be addressed by the federal government anyway, as the Environmental Protection Agency has proclaimed jurisdiction over it. If the solution is not legislative, it will be regulatory and, as the senators describe it, “unilateral.” More bluntly, Graham calls this “the worst possible outcome.”
On issue after issue – judicial nominations, Social Security and now climate and energy – Graham has tried to forge a consensus on the most politically dangerous issues facing the country. With him on board, the energy bill will be more comprehensive than legislation crafted by Democrats alone and better for business than new EPA regulations. These are the kinds of compromises that get things done, and this is the type of problem-solving we send our representatives to accomplish.