Energy and Bali

As climate negotiations come to a close in Bali, it’s clear that U.S. progress to confront global warming will come from Congress. More and more, the Bush administration is irrelevant in global efforts to confront the climate emergency. Case in point – today’s story in the Washington Post quoting chief U.S. negotiator Harlan Watson telling someone at the meeting that he was doing the country a favor by resisting mandatory emissions targets.

Doing us a favor? Is he kidding?

It gets better – at a news conference on Monday Watson had this to say:


Tomorrow will be the tenth anniversary of Kyoto Protocol and the United States is the country in the developed countries who didn’t ratify Kyoto. So how do you evaluate Kyoto Protocol this moment? And is there possibility for the current administration to change the attitude towards Kyoto Protocol?

Dr. Watson:

The last answer is "no", there isn’t. It is not correct that we are the only developed country. There’s also Turkey. I know the focus has been on the United States and Australia, but if you read the Convention, Turkey is an Annex I country that has also not ratified Kyoto. Our feeling about Kyoto has not changed. It is not something that would work for the United States.

So, the U.S. should not support a global agreement to confront climate change until Turkey does?

Thankfully, a prominent American attended the Bali negotiations and spoke the truth about U.S. engagement in a global climate agreement. Former Vice President Al Gore, fresh from picking up his Nobel Peace Prize, spoke to the conference and called a spade a spade, noting that "my own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here."

Although the administration tried to block action, the rest of the world signaled it is prepared to move to cut emissions of global warming pollution before the consequences become unstoppable.

In the U.S., Congress is now in the driver’s seat on climate progress, while the White House sits at the side of the road. It’s up to the U.S. Congress to pass mandatory cap and trade legislation as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, the nation is about to see a comprehensive energy bill land on President Bush’s desk as early as next week. It’s been a long and bumpy road, but what we ended up with is an energy bill that helps reduce America’s oil dependency and takes an important step toward reducing global warming pollution, most notably, with the first congressional overhaul of fuel economy standards since the era of the 8-track tape player.

Unfortunately, the bill does not close $13 billion worth of tax loopholes and subsidies for the oil industry and reinvest the money in clean and renewable energy technologies. A total of 40 Senators blocked the bill, forcing Senate leaders to jettison the tax provisions.

Oil companies have given $8 million to Senators over the past four years. The action by these 40 Senators proved they have gotten their money’s worth: $1,600 in tax breaks for every dollar the oil industry has spent in campaign contributions. A breakdown of oil and gas company contributions to the 40 senators who blocked a measure to rollback oil company giveaways is available at

The energy bill is an important step, but the work of the U.S. Senate on global warming is unfinished. The Senate should quickly build on this measure and take up comprehensive legislation that tackles global warming head-on. We must start now and put ourselves on track to reduce pollution by two percent each and every year, ultimately cutting pollution by 80 percent by mid-century. We can do that. The recent Senate Environment Committee victory to approve the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act is another sign that Congress is ready to do more on global warming.

Published: December 14, 2007