San Jose Mercury News: Although the John McCain-Joe Lieberman bill to get serious about climate change took a thumping in the U.S. Senate, the political climate has improved for those who think global warming is real and that something has to be done about it.
Fifty-four senators supported a sense-of-the-Senate resolution that America must eventually put a cap on its emissions of greenhouse gases. Also taking hold was the understanding that the economy will benefit from climate-friendly innovation. Tech-savvy American companies can invent energy-thrifty machines and electronic devices. They can develop alternatives to fossil fuels for transportation and the generation of electricity.
The global warming discussion was part of the larger debate on a comprehensive energy bill that passed the Senate 85-12 on Tuesday. Next comes reconciliation with the House version, passed in April. More than in the past, the Senate was aware of the need to change course.
The bill would set a goal for utilities of generating 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Conservation, renewable energy and cleaner fuels would receive 40 percent of the tax incentives in the bill.
But overall, the Senate still is stuck in the energy thinking of the past, with too many subsidies for oil and natural gas.
Mandating better fuel economy for cars and light trucks remains beyond the pale, though the price of gasoline may eventually force Americans to turn to fuel-sipper cars and pickups.
A carbon tax levied on fuels in proportion to the carbon dioxide they emit when burned would encourage a shift away from coal and oil. It too seems too radical, which is regrettable.
The Senate couldn't bring itself to set limits for greenhouse gas emissions. But at least the Senate is warming to the idea that one urgent goal of federal energy policy should be cooling the environment.