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GOP Gets Its Way on Energy, Too

Another day, another Republican filibuster: McConnell’s gang in the Senate just blocked the House energy bill, which would’ve begun the long, tortuous process of dismantling the country’s altar to Big Oil. Dems will now, at the least, have to rip out the provisions requiring states to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. (They could try to make the Republicans filibuster the bill “for real,” but Reid sounds like he wants to compromise.)

A few years back, Texas passed a similar “portfolio standard” in its statehouse and very rapidly became the wind capital of the country. But Southern Company—a behemoth coal-burning utility based in Georgia—didn’t want any such thing, so Republicans fell into line. (Jeff Goodell, in his book Big Coal, notes that Southern shelled out $25 million in federal lobbying fees during George W. Bush’s first term, and its lobbyists are known as “kneecap breakers.”) Since there’s no comparably-sized renewable lobby, a single utility really could scuttle the measure.

Now, it’s still an open question whether the bill’s tax provisions—which would shift billions in subsidies away from oil and gas and toward clean energy—will survive intact. When asked why the Dems stuffed in so many measures that the Senate GOP was sure to block, Steny Hoyer quipped, “If you shoot low, you hit low.” That’s a fine aphorism—there’s no use surrendering preemptively—but it’s clear that the GOP won’t budge an inch on energy or climate legislation. Short of a Democratic landslide in ‘08, that won’t change.

On a similar note, watch the Chamber of Commerce turn the volume up to 11 on the Lieberman-Warner climate bill that just got sent to the Senate floor (a bill, note, that’s likely to be the most lenient cap-and-trade regime big business can ever hope for):

--Bradford Plumer