Environmentalists are livid over Sen. Lindsey GrahamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s (R-SC) recent change of heart on comprehensive energy reform, after he spent months pledging to work with Democrats on a bill and to help court Republican votes.
In separate interviews, leaders from two environmental groups accused Graham of deliberately deceiving progressives and pandering to his conservative base after sapping their enthusiasm by weakening the reforms.
“I think heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just been bluffing all along,” said Ivan Frishberg, Political Director of Environment America, in a telephone interview with Raw Story. “It just doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make sense to draft legislation and then say youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to vote against it.”
After declaring in a New York Times op-ed, “climate change is real and threatens our economy and national security,Ã¢â‚¬Â Graham told reporters Wednesday that “the science is in question” and that progressives have been “alarmist” and “oversold this stuff.” After demurring on the Kerry-Lieberman energy and climate bill, which he helped craft, Graham completed his reversal last week, promising he’ll vote against it.
Frishberg wasn’t willing to accept his sincerity. “He knew working on this bill would be unpopular with his base, and he said he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care, he wanted to do what was right,” Frishberg said. “It just means we canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t trust his word anymore.”
A Greenpeace activist disparaged Graham’s impact on the negotiations, and alleged he’s simply coming to terms with certain progressive realities, even as he’s rhetorically shunning others.
“Graham has played a key role in the effort to turn climate and energy policy into a bailout for dangerous polluters by promoting offshore oil drilling and nuclear power,” Kyle Ash, Global Warming Legislative Representative for Greenpeace, told Raw Story in an e-mail.
“Senator GrahamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s recent reversal looks like the actions of a shrewd politician who understands that any effort to expand oil drilling will fail, as the true cost of dirty energy sinks in on the Gulf Coast,” Ash added, urging the Senate to instead ignore “polluter lobbyists” and sound the siren for a “clean energy revolution.”
The South Carolina senator said he continues to champion oil drilling, citing as one of his concerns the limits placed on offshore exploration after the spill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has told colleagues he will move on an energy bill next month. The Gulf spill, far from galvanizing support for an overhaul, has dampened its prospects Ã¢â‚¬â€œ some Democrats have withdrawn their support for offshore oil drilling while Republicans wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t negotiate without such a provision.
After Graham’s reversal, a Senate Democratic aide closely involved with the issue told Raw Story that legislation with a carbon cap wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t garner the votes, but strongly believed a scaled-back clean energy bill will pass this year. The House energy bill, approved last summer, will be defunct in January.
Frishberg had a similar view: “We know the Republican leadership will do everything they can to play to the Tea Party and stop any kind of comprehensive energy and climate act,” he said. “But there is a substantive and political imperative to getting it done this year. The battle is over what it will be.”