Lugar unveils ‘business friendly’ energy & climate bill, with Graham’s support

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, June 9 – Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) unveiled new energy legislation Wednesday, saying it “prioritizes the cheapest and easiest energy savings.”

Lugar explained that his “Practical Energy and Climate Plan Act of 2010” is designed as an alternative to the House-passed Waxman-Markey bill and the Kerry-Lieberman bill proposed in the Senate. He dismissed those bills which both include cap-&-trade provisions as out of touch with the American public and too expensive for “our already fragile economy.” He acknowledged that his bill which relies on incentives for industry rather than putting a price on carbon would achieve less than “half the President’s 2020 greenhouse gas emissions goal.”

Despite the Lugar bill’s lack of a price on carbon, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) – who previously insisted on the need to price carbon – joined Lugar in introducing the bill, calling it “a good start.” Also previously, Graham was a co-author of the Kerry-Lieberman-Graham cap-&-trade climate bill before he withdraw his support, citing concern over Senate priorities.

Sens. Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) unveiling Lugar's Energy & Climate bill Wednesday. Photo: AgriPulse.
At Wednesday’s press conference to introduce the Lugar bill, Graham explained that “Senator Lugar has found a way forward that I think will be attractive to the business community, to Democrats and Republicans alike, and I would like to be his partner and see if we can find common ground with other people like Senators Kerry and Lieberman who are interested in the same goals.” He said that what’s important is to “break our dependence on foreign oil, create jobs in America that will never go to China through energy independence, and try to find a way to clean up the air here in America and purify the water.”

Lugar and Graham said Lugar’s approach recognizes the political reality that there’s not enough bipartisan support for a cap-&-trade bill and the economic reality that the U.S. can’t afford more expensive measures. Calling energy, not climate, the top priority, Lugar explained that “By placing carbon reductions ahead of solving energy vulnerabilities, the cap-&-trade bills situate the energy debate on the most controversial and unsustainable political grounds. Energy policy would benefit greatly from something close to a political consensus. The most contradictory outcome would be the imposition of an expensive cap-&-trade plan by a narrow political margin at a time when the added expense could intensify economic pressures in the United States, thus undercutting the appetite of Americans for any efforts toward carbon reductions.”

Both Lugar and Graham said that they are hopeful that they can attract Democrats to support the Lugar bill’s more energy-focused approach which relies on steady improvements in vehicle, building and industrial energy efficiency standards. The bill also boosts financial support for nuclear power development. Responding to the BP oil spill disaster, the bill drops Lugar’s previous provisions for increased offshore oil drilling.

One indication of potential support for the Lugar bill will be Thursday’s Senate floor debate on the proposal by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to remove EPA’s authority to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act. If a significant number of Democrats supports Murkowski’s “Resolution of Disapproval,” that could be a clear sign there is not sufficient support in the Senate for passing the Kerry-Lieberman cap-&-trade bill. In that case, Lugar and Graham might win over enough Democrats to pass a compromise bill that doesn’t cap carbon but would at least represent a small step in the direction of curbing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions through what Graham called a “business-friendly” approach.

To read Senator Lugar’s 112-page S. 3464, “Practical Energy & Climate Plan Act” introduced June 9, go to:

To read a letter from Energy Secretary Chu welcoming the Lugar energy bill, go to: 

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