Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Heat is On!!!

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Senator Boxer's unprecedented, seven hour open mike marathon on global warming drew a crowd yesterday: Sen. Boxer, Clinton, Cardin, Lautenberg, Klubuchar, Whitehouse, Inhofe, Durbin, McCain, Kerry, Lincoln, Bingamen, Feinstein,  Obama,  Nelson, Murkowski, Akaka, and Levin -- plus statements from Enzi, Lugar, Snowe, Biden, Kennedy, Craig, and Feingold.  That's 1/4 of the Senate.  While the minority may object to the hearing format...it did its job of focussing attention on the issue.

From the LA Times:
WASHINGTON  - All of a sudden, global warming is hot.

After years of languishing on Capitol Hill, efforts to curb global warming have picked up momentum, powered by a growing bipartisan belief that climate change can no longer be ignored.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has declared it a top priority for the House. Presidential candidates from both parties call it one of the biggest issues faced by the next occupant of the White House. Even President Bush, long a skeptic, is sounding the alarm.

That's an abrupt break from the past, when the issue - the role man-made pollutants play in the increase in the Earth's temperature - was shrugged off by many politicians. Especially among Republicans, it was regarded as an untested theory or an alarmist fantasy.

Polls show that most Americans believe the studies that show pollution is a cause of climate change. And politicians now are scrambling to keep up with science and public opinion.

Legislation to curb global warming is still a long shot in Congress because there is no consensus on a solution. But almost all the candidates who want to succeed Bush - from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C. - are far ahead of him in proposing ways to reduce carbon emissions.

"There has been a sea change in this issue over the last year," said Cathy Duvall, national political director of the Sierra Club. "It went from a backburner issue to something people understand is a problem. Now they are looking for leaders to take action."

The United States is the leading emitter of carbon dioxide, about one-quarter of the worldwide total. About 80 percent comes from fossil fuels, with power plants and vehicles as the leading culprits. Presidential politics and legislative debate came together Tuesday when McCain and several other candidates discussed their climate change legislation at a Senate hearing.

"The number of individuals in Washington who reject the clear evidence of global warming appears to be shrinking as its dramatic manifestations mount," McCain said. "We are no longer just talking about how climate change will affect our children's and grandchildren's lives, as we did just a few years ago, but we now are talking about how it is already impacting the world."

McCain, considered a front-runner for his party's presidential nomination, has introduced a bill to impose mandatory limits on the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming and intends to introduce another to target vehicle emissions by raising miles-per-gallon rules. His cosponsors on the first bill include two leading Democratic presidential contenders, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.

Other candidates have their own proposals. New Mexico's Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson touts his efforts to get his state to generate more electricity from cleaner sources, such as solar and wind power. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., recently introduced a resolution calling for the United States to return to international negotiations on climate change that Bush spurned.

Edwards, who ranks global warming as one of his top three issues, recently pointed out that he has given up his old-fashioned sport utility vehicle for a hybrid one. Even conservative Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., mentioned the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in announcing his candidacy.

Some states are beginning to act on their own, causing influential business leaders to call for federal regulation to avoid a patchwork of different state and local laws.

Most important, Democrats who want action on the issue now control the House and the Senate, and the party's leaders have moved it to center stage.

Pelosi has asked committees to produce legislation by July 4 and has moved to establish a special global warming committee to bypass Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., an auto industry ally who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He is seen as a potential obstacle to legislation, including new limits on tailpipe emissions.

Despite signs that Congress might shift from talking to legislating, advocates of limits on greenhouse gases warn against high expectations, noting that any measure must make it through the narrowly divided Senate and past Bush's veto.

And proposals to cap emissions, especially from coal-fueled power plants, also face opposition from many Republicans and some Democrats who contend they would harm the economy.

"There's going to be a lot of sound and fury," said Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global warming program, "but unless something changes pretty radically, it's really hard to see how an important bill passes this Congress - and is signed by this president."

That's why many environmentalists are looking ahead to the 2008 elections. The League of Conservation Voters Education Fund has launched an initiative, called "The Heat Is On," to ensure global warming is at the center of debate. The organization is tracking what candidates say and hopes to pressure them through town hall meetings and ballot initiatives.

"We will make sure there is an expectation they will outline clear solutions," said Navin Nayak, director of the project.

Like ethanol in Iowa, global warming could become a litmus-test issue for candidates in New Hampshire, which holds the first primary. More than 100 towns are planning votes on a resolution calling for federal action to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Ted Leach, a Republican and former state lawmaker from New Hampshire, is co-chairman of the Carbon Coalition, which persuaded the towns to weigh in. He has issued a warning to contenders: "If we don't hear out of you what we want to hear, you're probably not going to get our votes."

The 2008 presidential candidate most deeply involved in the issue is McCain, who has for years pushed legislation to impose mandatory limits on emissions that contribute to global warming. It is a goal that has put him at odds with most in his party, and one that helped him build his reputation as a maverick.

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