On Tuesday, July 7, 2009 Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) chaired a three part hearing of the Environment and Public Works Committee aimed at discussing various aspects of the recently passed Waxman-Markey Bill (formally known as the Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009). Judging from the posturing and hard hitting statements of the committee members, the bill is going to get some tough scrutiny before coming to a vote in the Senate. My guess is that any bill coming out of the Senate will bear little resemblance to the bill that barely passed the House on a yes vote of 219 – just one more than a majority of the 435 member House of Representatives.
Update: (Posted at 0256 on July 10, 2009)
It appears that Senator Boxer has realized that there is a considerable amount of work to be done to overcome the strenuous objections expressed in her committee. According to a Reuters story released last night titled, Obama’s drive for climate change bill hits delay, Sen. Boxer has put off any new work on the climate and energy bill until after the congressional recess that ends in September. End Update.
If you have plenty of time on your hands, you can watch the full hearing – which covered a total of about 3 hours between the morning and two afternoon sessions – on C-span at SENATE ENVIRONMENT & PUBLIC WORKS HEARING ON CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY. If you are a fan of nuclear energy, taking the time might make you feel a bit better about the decision making that is taking place in Washington. Your favorite energy source is getting forcefully introduced into nearly every energy and climate debate, even if there are some people who would prefer to continue ignoring it, hoping it will fade away.
At this hearing I counted a number of strong atomic advocates. The following Senators spoke favorably about the importance of nuclear energy and its emission free characteristics – Alexander, Crapo, Carper, Udall, Cardin, Inhofe, and Klobuchar – some more enthusiastically than others. Among the witnesses, Dr. Steven Chu, and Governor Haley Barbour were very enthusiastic while Lisa Jackson expressed rather grudging support.
Since Dr. Chu is the Administration’s point man on energy technologies, the Guardian in the UK provided an interesting interpretation of the hearing’s likely outcome in its article titled Obama makes nuclear compromise to pass clean energy bill: Endorsement of nuclear revival suggests president is open to further compromises in order to pass climate change bill.
Both the Wall Street Journal (Climate Fight: The Senate Tackles Global Warming Bill) and the New York Times (Combative Start to Senate Climate Hearings) included blog entries about the hearing, noting that there was more drama and combativeness than is normal in the Senate, which has a reputation as a well mannered club full of collegial people.
There are active comment threads at both of those blogs; if you decide to visit them you may note some familiar names among the debaters.
Not surprisingly, NEI Nuclear Notes posted an entry with a good summary of the key quotes about the role of nuclear in the climate and energy discussion. The Senate Moves on the Energy Bill.
Like Mark Flanagan at NEI Nuclear Notes, I cannot end this post without at least a passing mention of the only anti-nuclear comment that I heard. Senator Barry Sanders (D-VT), a man who waxes lyrically about the value of building solar thermal electric power plants in the desert southwest, stated that his big problem with adding new nuclear power is the “toxic waste” that “no state wants”. If I can ever get a minute or two with that senator, I will ask two questions:
- How does he plan to move electricity from solar thermal power plants located in the desert southwest to Vermont?
- Why does he think that contained “toxic” waste from nuclear plants is worse than released toxic waste from coal, oil and gas power plants?
I am not optimistic enough to believe that I would get acceptable answers, even if I ever did get the opportunity to ask the questions.