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So Long, Renewables?

According to Virginia Rep. Rick Boucher, White House officials are now signaling that the president might be willing to sign a climate change bill that put limits on U.S. greenhouse gases—as long as it's weak and ineffective.

Ordinarily, scuttlebutt like that wouldn't deserve more than a shrug. But, as Dave Roberts points out, an increasing number of coal-state legislators and industry donors actually want Bush to sign a lukewarm bill now, so as to fend off more drastic action later on—especially since there's a non-trivial chance that Democrats could have the White House and a supermajority in the Senate come 2009. Joe Lieberman recently suggested that the fossil-fuel industry has started agitating for climate legislation to pass next year, for the same reasons.

Now, my first thought was, "There's no way congressional Democrats would agree to that and pass something ineffective just so they can brag about getting something—anything—done this session." But now, along similar lines, I see that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi might just accommodate the White House by stripping out both the renewable energy standard and the production tax credits for wind and solar from the energy bill that's stalled in conference right now. Doing so would throttle the U.S. renewable industry—which has only just started booming, especially in places like Texas. But, as Brian Beutler reports, the leadership seems to think that having an energy bill with ethanol subsidies and mild CAFE increases "is enough to secure Democratic bragging rights on energy." It'll be telling, I think, to see how this turns out...

--Bradford Plumer