Foreign Policy Blogs

Bali and Washington

Energy Bill – “You can’t always get what you want,” quoth the Stones.  “But if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.”  Well I think the U.S. needs more than what we’ll get out of Washington in the energy bill, but it just might be a good down payment.  See U.S. Senate Approves Scaled Back Energy Bill from the excellent Environment News Service.  “The scaled-back measure passed 86-8 and the House is expected to approve the bill next week. The Bush administration has indicated the president will sign the legislation into law.”

As you know, the bill that came from the House contained the withdrawal of significant tax breaks that the oil and gas industry are presently enjoying, and that this version failed to be brought to a vote, so the federal government’s largesse was retained.  According to the ENS story, “Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu was the lone Democrat to oppose ending debate. Arizona Republican John McCain, who is running for president, was the lone senator not to vote.”  It goes on to report “”The future just failed by one vote,’ said Senator Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat in the wake of the cloture vote. “The past was preserved the oil companies are now celebrating in their boardrooms. Not only do they have the highest profits in history, they continue to have a death grip on this Senate.'”  But he’s not bitter.  (Nor am I.)  The American Wind Energy Association said in a statement “Today’s vote is out of step with Americans across the political spectrum who overwhelmingly support clean, home-grown renewable energy.”

Oh well, there is a lot of good stuff in this legislation, known as the  “The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.”  Jeff Bingaman, the chair of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, said in a release “he is pleased that the Senate overwhelmingly adopted an energy bill that, while imperfect, takes major steps toward energy efficiency and shifting toward renewable energy sources.”  The NRDC said ” we are disappointed that the renewable electricity standard was removed from the final bill, since investing in renewable, efficient energy sources is critical to moving America beyond its oil addiction. We look forward to separate passage through Congress in the near future.”

Climate Change Talks – Meanwhile, down in Bali, it seems that the smoke has cleared and there’s an agreement.  There are over 3,000 stories listed for this at Google News!  What we have here is an agreement on a course for further negotiations.  Bali breakthrough launches historic climate talks is the headline from Reuters.  “The deal after two weeks of talks came after the United States dramatically dropped opposition to a proposal by the main developing-nation bloc, the G77, for rich nations to do more to help the developing world fight rising greenhouse emissions,” said Reuters.  “Following grueling all-night talks, the conference of 190 nations finally launched a process to negotiate a new treaty for when the UN Kyoto Protocol’s commitments expire in 2012,” reports the AFP here.  The BBC says “The US has said the climate change negotiating process it agreed to in Bali must ensure developing states take their fair share of emission cuts,” in their article. Finally, “Time” has a nice summary at Who Won and Lost at Bali.

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change, a highly effective voice, said a critical next step “is an unequivocal signal by the United States that it is prepared to negotiate a binding international commitment.  Having joined other governments in launching this new U.N. process, the Bush administration must not use its upcoming meeting of major economies to stall or steer countries away from binding commitments.  With Congress now well on its way to enacting an economy-wide cap-and-trade system, it’s time for the administration to support mandatory emission limits at home as a foundation for a fair, inclusive, and effective global agreement.”  We’ll see.

For further information, including video, go to the conference website.



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change