LAS VEGAS -- Following a speech that many observers here saw as among the most forceful confrontations of climate change in recent memory by a high-ranking government official, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he hopes the Senate will take up a bill to put a price on carbon emissions if Democrats maintain control of the chamber next year.
"We certainly can't stay where we are; we have to do something," Reid told Greenwire yesterday as he browsed exhibits at his National Clean Energy Summit 5.0.
Asked whether the Senate would return to climate legislation aimed at adding a price to carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping emissions, Reid said, "I hope so."
Earlier in the day, Reid opened the annual summit, which he hosts alongside the liberal Center for American Progress, with a stemwinder of a speech accusing those who deny the reality of climate change of being out of touch with reality and calling for Nevada's main utility to shutter a coal-fired power plant north of Las Vegas. Reid said those who dismiss the connection between increased greenhouse gas emissions and rising temperatures and severe weather "aren't just on the other side of this debate. They're on the other side of reality" (E&ENews PM, Aug. 7).
"Harry Reid is not just taking on Romney -- he's taking on climate deniers, too," environmental activist Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, wrote on Twitter after Reid's speech yesterday.
How to address climate change has been a fairly dormant subject on Capitol Hill for the last two years, after a push for cap-and-trade legislation stalled in the Senate and Democrats lost control of the House in a 2010 election marked by GOP attacks on moderates who supported the bill. Congressional Democrats and President Obama rarely mention climate change, even as they tout efforts to promote renewable electricity, alternative fuels and energy efficiency.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the de facto leader of the climate-change-is-a-hoax movement, issued a statement after yesterday's speech "welcoming my good friend Senator Reid back to the global warming debate."
Inhofe noted that Reid has not brought a climate bill to the floor since 2008, when the Senate voted down a cap-and-trade bill from Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.), who has since retired. Inhofe pointed to a series of votes earlier this year aimed at blocking or limiting U.S. EPA's greenhouse gas regulations. While none of the measures passed -- a result of "cover votes" arranged by Democratic leadership, Inhofe said -- 64 senators voted for at least one effort to rein in EPA.
"Now it will be interesting to see if Senator Reid will embrace the James Hansen-backed 'carbon tax' designed to eliminate fossil fuels, which was recently introduced in the House, or will that term also be deleted from the Democrats' dictionary once they find out just how unpopular that idea is too?" Inhofe said.
It is not just Hansen, the NASA scientist and prominent climate activist, who supports a carbon tax. The idea also has been quietly gaining traction in some conservative intellectual circles, and former Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) last month launched a new group aimed at promoting the idea of a revenue-neutral tax on carbon on the right (E&E Daily, July 30).
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) last week introduced a carbon tax bill in the House; no Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors (E&E Daily, Aug. 3).
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