The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has breathed new life into legislation aimed at putting limits on carbon emissions, with President Obama expected to push Congress to pass a bill that addresses both energy and global warming in a national address.
Senate Democrats are trying to write an energy bill, but most lawmakers still appear reluctant to include a provision that charges companies for emitting carbon dioxide, which many scientists say is responsible for changes to the Earth's climate.
With up to 40,000 barrels of oil per day gushing from a damaged well a mile under the water in the Gulf, there may be new incentive to answer Obama's call for more regulations. But it may not be enough to persuade the Senate to pass a bill that increases the costs on businesses.
Congress this week will focus intensely on both the spill and an effort to move an energy bill. On Tuesday, hours before Obama delivers his speech, Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., plan to unveil the Environmental Protection Agency's economic analysis of their energy and global warming bill, which includes a plan to cap carbon emissions.
Tony Hayward, chief executive officer of BP, will testify on Capitol Hill on Thursday after meeting with Obama on Wednesday.
Obama and Democrats are under pressure from environmental groups not only to get control of the spill but to take a stand on global warming legislation right now, while the public is focused on the disaster in the Gulf.
The League of Conservation Voters has put out a poll, conducted by Democratic National Committee pollster Joel Benenson, showing strong support for a bill that addresses both energy reform and carbon pollution.
"With thousands of barrels of oil pouring into the Gulf every day, it doesn't get any better than this for environmentalists," said Steven Hayward, a public policy scholar at the free-market American Enterprise Institute (and no relation to the BP boss). "I'm thinking that the environmental groups right now are saying to Obama, if you can't push for a carbon cap now, what use are you guys?"
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has asked the chairman of the relevant committees to come up with ideas for an energy bill.
"I think he wants to do something that will get 60 votes and I don't think that's real easy," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., a global warming skeptic, told The Washington Examiner he suspects the EPA analysis of the Kerry-Lieberman bill will not show the true cost of the legislation in order to make it look more attractive to the public.
"But they are not going to have the votes to do it," Inhofe said. "Cap and trade is dead, but they don't want to give up. They know they are not going to be able to pass it but they have to pacify their base."