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Washington Has Lost Its Appetite For Unpopular Climate Policies

If changes in the public mood and the party alignment of the U.S. Senate have stalled healthcare legislation, they may have thrown the highly anticipated climate bill under a bus.

Even before Republican Scott Brown’s stunning election to the Senate in traditionally Democratic Massachusetts last month, it was proving hard to corral moderate Democrats to support a bill capping greenhouse gas emissions. Now they’re afraid to back anything that could be perceived as harmful to the economy. “Realistically, the cap-and-trade bills in the House and the Senate are going nowhere,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told the New York Times. That’s a distressing comment coming from one of the three senators supposedly crafting a compromise climate bill that’s capable of achieving a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

President Obama has backed down too. On Tuesday, he signaled that cap-and-trade could go the way of healthcare reform’s “public option,” saying it could be removed from the climate bill. That would eliminate the market mechanism for pricing greenhouse gas pollution — and without setting such a carbon price, other measures under consideration, such as a national renewable energy standard, won’t go far enough to significantly slow global warming.

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