Monday, July 26, 2010

Dorgan knows the issue is there even if he will not face it

Last time ended with a note on a powwow Senator Byron Dorgan had with high level individuals in the coal industry. Couched in a common metaphor, Dorgan told them that because they are reflexively fighting addressing carbon emissions and refusing to sit down at the table, they are going to end up on the menu.

By demonizing as "cap-and-tax" a flexible market approach to addressing carbon emissions by setting a necessary limit and letting the market figure out the cheapest and most efficient way to achieve the ends, the fossil fuel industry is facing a future of less accommodating regulations. The EPA have recognized the problem with unfettered greenhouse gas emissions and are finally declaring enough is enough.

The effort led by Lisa Murkowski to tell the EPA that in spite of being the "Environmental Protection Agency" that they are not allowed to protect the environment failed last month, but more such efforts are certain, though there is reason to believe they will not reach fruition. Even if the Jay Rockefellers of the Congress could somehow get some sort of a delay in carbon regulation, it would be a short-lived victory for them.

Senator Rockefeller's recently passed delegation partner Robert Byrd recently came to realize that. Imagine that - a Senator near the end of his tenure from a state highly dependent on coal changing his tune, at least a little. Looks like Dorgan may be doing the same. Like Byrd, Dorgan is not pushing for any movement away from coal use but rather simply saying that the ignored costs of environmental damage will finally soon have to be paid. Dorgan is still pro-coal to a fault but is saying the industry should accept reality.

It is reassuring that Dorgan recognizes coal is going to have to face the music in spite of how the Senate figures to change this year. Byrd's presumable replacement and Dorgan's sure replacement John Hoeven show no signs of Byrd's and Dorgan's recognition, instead holding a coal-can-do-no-wrong attitude. Dorgan apparently sees though that the sand these people are burying their heads in is slowly blowing away. He still mostly has his back turned to the issue of cutting emissions (carbon sequestration is very unlikely to be any sort of panacea for fossil fuels), but Dorgan has his head out of that sand. Hopefully with time more of those out of the sand, whether to begin or forced by recognition of the situation, will have the courage to do something positive. Byrd accepted that would happen, and Dorgan seems to see that too. I just hope it happens before we dig ourselves too much deeper.

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