Climate Change

Floor Speech

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: March 19, 2009
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GRAHAM. Madam President, one, I would like to recognize the role Senator McCain has played on this issue. It is not something he comes to lightly, when the issue of climate change is discussed. He put together a cap-and-trade system with Senator Lieberman at a time when it was not very popular among some Republicans. But I think he understands the issue as well as any Member I have talked with.

The idea that what we put into the environment can affect our environment--I am not a scientist, but that is common sense to me. Acid rain is a reality. It was a reality. You could see it in the Southeast, where the Presiding Officer lives in North Carolina, and in South Carolina. It was a cap-and-trade system, a new technology that solved that problem.

So it is not much of a stretch to me that CO2 carbon emissions that we are putting into our environment from transportation and power production is heating up the planet, but we can have that debate. If you are serious about energy independence as a nation, it would be good to get away from fossil fuels coming from the Mideast. Clean coal technology is something worth pursuing. The worst thing that could happen to the climate change debate is--you cleaned up your planet and you passed on a better environment to your children only if you did it responsibly.

Really, the worst thing that could happen to the climate change debate is what this administration is doing. They have destroyed, in my opinion, a lot of bipartisanship by coming up with a $646 billion budget number, revenue to be created from a cap-and-trade system they never talked to anybody about who has been involved in the issue. This is a radical, reckless departure from the climate change debate that existed before they took office.

This 100 percent auction is a bit complicated to explain, but it is a major
departure from the solutions that have existed in the past. Under the McCain-Warner-Lieberman approach, 22 percent of the credits available to industry and energy users would be auctioned and there would be an allocation of credits.

What do I mean by that? A cap-and-trade system at its very basic level--concept--is that we are going to put limits on how much carbon you can emit into the air as an industry. We will have one for the power sector, the transportation sector, for manufacturing. We are going to put a cap on these industries, and anything you emit above that cap, you are going to have to go get a credit, purchase a credit.

Well, if you have a 100-percent auction of these credits, hedge funds are going to come in and buy these credits and bid them up, so it would be very hard for an industry to purchase the credits. People start speculating with these credits.

Now, the northeastern compact has a 100-percent auction, but the emission standards they have decided upon allow--basically, it is greater than the current emissions that exist, so the credits only trade for $3 because they don't have much of a cap that puts pressure on anybody. The only way you will solve this problem is to have caps that will push people to get away from using carbon, but our manufacturing sector is hanging by a thread in the global economy. If you put too much of a burden on these industries to move away from carbon and their cost of doing business goes up vis-a-vis their competitors in China and India, you are going to put them out of business.

So in some circumstances, you have to allocate to these industries some credits so they can make it through the transition phase. This idea of having a 100-percent auction on day one is a radical departure, and it does generate more revenue, and I think that is what this whole exercise is about--revenue--not solving the climate problem. They have a budget problem, and they are using the climate change debate to generate money.

I have asked the Secretary of Energy and the OMB Director: Where did you get $646 billion to plug into your budget? What system did you evaluate that would generate that much money? What did the credits trade for? Nobody has a clue. I literally think they made up these numbers. Some people are talking about the $646 billion being maybe half of what the actual cost would be if you went to a 100 percent auction. So this is a major departure from the way we have tried to solve the climate change problem in the past, and I think it is going to destroy the ability of the Congress to come together to solve a problem that is looming for the world and particularly this country.

So I hope our colleagues who are serious about the climate change issue will reject this proposal, and let's get together, talk among ourselves, rather than making up numbers that will increase the cost to American consumers by hundreds of dollars a month. This idea of using revenue from a cap-and-trade system to pay for a tax plan of the administration is a complete departure from what we have been doing in the past. I wouldn't expect my Democratic colleagues to allow the Republican Party to come up with a cap-and-trade system to fund one of our projects. The money from a cap-and-trade system should go back into the energy economy to help people comply with the cost of a cap-and-trade system and to develop technologies to get us away from using carbon.

The make work pay tax program is something I don't agree with. It doesn't apply to everybody who will be using energy, and it is a departure from how we would envision the use of revenue, and that is a problem that has to be addressed. If the administration is going to insist on a cap-and-trade system that would generate this much money from our economy at a time when we are weak as a nation economically and would dedicate the revenue to controversial programs, they have done more to kill the climate change debate than any group I know of. You have some people who disagree with the idea that climate change is real. I respect them. They are attacking it up front. We are having a genuine debate. But to say you believe in climate change as a result, and you devise a program such as this without talking to anybody means that you have put climate change second to the budget problems you have created by a massive budget. So this is not going to bear fruit. This is a very low point, in my opinion, in the bipartisan effort to try to create a meaningful inclusion to climate change. I hope the administration will reconsider.

To my Democratic colleagues, those of you who stood up and said: We are not going to let reconciliation--we only need 50 votes to pass something regarding climate change; we are not going to go that route, you have done the country and the Senate a lot of good because if you ever try that, you have destroyed the position of the minority in the Senate on a major piece of legislation, and that is not what we need to be doing. That is certainly not the change that anybody envisioned. That would be a radical departure in terms of how reconciliation has been used in the past.

To take an issue such as climate change, which has a massive economic impact and is politically very difficult with a lot of honestly held differences, and jam that through reconciliation, well, that would not be the politics of the past, that would be the politics of the past on steroids. That would be taking us to a place where no one has gone before, and if you wanted to destroy any chance of working together, that would be a good way to do it.

Now, as to my colleagues on the Democratic side who see through that, God bless you for standing up and not letting that happen.

So I wish to end my discussion with where I began. Senator McCain and others have charted a path that would lead to a bipartisan solution. I hope the President will consider nuclear power because it is very disingenuous to say you want to solve the climate change problem and you will not address nuclear power as part of the solution. Seventy percent of the energy that is created in America that is not emitting, that has no carbon base, comes from nuclear power. When he campaigned for President, candidate Obama openly talked about offshore drilling and nuclear power. When his budget comes out, there is nothing in the budget to enhance nuclear power, and Yucca Mountain is now going to be closed, apparently, and the idea that reprocessing of spent fuel is the way to store less spent fuel seems to be resisted by this administration.

So I thought we were going to have an administration where science trumped politics. Well, I can assure you when it comes to nuclear power, politics is trumping science. Other than that, I have no problem with what they are doing.

With that, I yield the floor.

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