Tipping Point? Republican (Murkowski) Hints at Support for Climate Change Bill

Last Updated Oct 14, 2009 5:48 PM EDT

It would be a stretch to call it an endorsement. It's more like a hint at support -- the tiniest of wavers in what has been a rigid stance by Republican senators on climate change legislation.

Funny, this hint of support isn't for the actual climate change bill introduced by senators John Kerry,D- Mass., and Barbara Boxer, D- Calif. But for the bipartisan "Yes We Can (Pass Climate change Legislation)" op-ed piece written by Kerry and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- S.C., that appeared Sunday in the New York Times.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, saluted today -- not the Boxer-Kerry bill -- but the framework for climate policy outlined in the op-ed by Kerry and Graham. She went as far as to "hope that it would mark a turning point in the climate debate."

"They wrote a column, not a bill, and I do believe it could be improved. But in my opinion, the framework they laid out in those 1,000 words is already better than the policies it took the House 1,400 pages to impose," Murkowski said in a statement released Wednesday.
Rising energy costs and lower economic growth are Murkowski's biggest concerns, based on the senator's comments during a committee hearing Wednesday on the cost of climate change legislation (and later reiterated in a statement).

So which of these 1,000 words has Murkowski -- the ranking Republican on Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee -- singing a slightly different tune? A couple of words and phrases come to mind.

Offshore drilling. The Kerry-Graham op-ed outlines a commitment to seek a compromise on additional onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration.

Nuclear energy. The expansion of nuclear energy, which was not in the House's climate change bill, is pretty much required to get any Republican support within the Senate. Carbon tariffs. The Kerry-Graham op-ed pushes for a border tax to be placed on items produced in countries that avoid environmental standards.

The op-ed also discusses the establishment of a floor and ceiling for the cost of emission allowances aimed at protecting businesses and consumers from rising energy prices.

Perhaps, most importantly, Murkowski does not want the Environmental Protection Agency imposing its own regulations. A climate change bill with a few these items -- nuclear energy, offshore drilling -- included will be a lot easier to swallow than the EPA flexing its regulatory muscle.

Graham has been raked over the coals by tea party activists since the op-ed was published, Joe Romm over at Climate Progress outlined in a detailed report on the various protests against the senator.

It'll be interesting to see whether Murkowski's hint of support will make her their next target.