Memo to Sen. Boxer: Be Careful What You Ask For

If I were Barbara Boxer, the last thing I want to hear on January 30th when Senators trundle down to offer their deep climate thoughts is the following. As her first act as chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Boxer has asked for Senators to offer their take on the horrors of global warming and what they, were they the king that they see in the mirror when shaving, would do.

Rare are such opportunities. In 500 words someone could do more for the debate than 6 years have done.

“Madame Chairman, I suggest we vote on the Kyoto Protocol. I have listened for 6 years to rather heated rhetoric about the purported irresponsibility of President Bush for not signing a treaty that was already signed by Bill Clinton, by those who have yet to suggest we vote on Kyoto; I have heard quite stirring claims against chairmen for holding hearings on an issue, from those who now insist that extensive hearings are absolutely necessary and quite simply the responsible thing to do.

I have been told throughout this time that we know the problem, we know the solution, and we must act now, the world is moving ahead on Kyoto without us.

So pardon me if I am a little confused about why we are not finally voting on this duly signed treaty. Is it tradition or protocol? Well, as my colleagues know we routinely waive Senate rules; if any among us reads our rules to say we cannot vote on a signed treaty until we are asked to by the President, then I am confident that planetary salvation, as we are told that Kyoto offers, is certainly as good an excuse as any of the many we have invoked to waive such rules in the past.

Finally, to my colleagues I suggest that if we are not actually interested in voting on Kyoto, this is nonetheless the best time to make that point clear. Just this past November we were told that Europe and the UN insist that their delay in implementing the original Kyoto treaty and in agreeing to further promises — not that they are complying with their first ones mind you — is grounded in the confidence that whomever assumes the White House in January 2009 will of course agree to an even more severe ‘second round’ of Kyoto. Oddly, not only does this fail to recognize that a previous president agreed to the ‘original’ Kyoto, and it is the Senate holding things up, not the president. Further confusing is that I cannot find any such position expressed by even one of those people the media tell me are the leading candidates for president.

Therefore, I also suggest that we owe our allies a reality check, or if you prefer that we stop being so inconsistent and let them know precisely where we stand on this: will we, or won’t we, are we or are we not interested in Kyoto’s approach of a global rationing scheme for energy use emissions, the approach that is quite transparently failing and at great cost to the economy in the only place willing to try it, namely Europe. Quite frankly, the wide array of proposals I see floated around this body — one or two of them resembling Kyoto but none of them actually representing Kyoto — indicates to the careful observer that we do indeed reject this approach. Somehow, however, this message does not seem to be getting out.

I look forward to my colleagues being given the opportunity to put this matter to rest. It is time to end the ‘Phony War’ over Kyoto and engage the matter. Dare I say, it’s time we ‘move on’.”