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Opening Arguments

Feeling the heat

I don't know whether we should be hopeful or worried that, according to The New York Times, Indiana's two senators are "considered fence sitters" on major climate change legislation moving through Congress. The analysis even goes so far as to say that their votes "could be the deciding factors, and obtaining those votes will be challenging."

In interviews last week, Republican Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.) and his Democratic colleague Evan Bayh (Ind.) expressed serious concerns about a mandatory cap on greenhouse gases, with unease about China, the economy and state utilities prevalent in their minds. Both did not rule out eventually voting for a bill, but each voiced the need for changes in global warming legislation that passed the House 219-212 in June.

And I don't get a good feel from the story about how the senators will end up voting. It's troubling, for example, that Bayh says "too many compromises were made on the House side," leaving little certainty that the measure "would do anything to control global warming." But if the bill were strong enough to guarantee an effect on global warming, the economic impact on Indiana would be even more devastating. Then would he vote for it? But it's comforting to hear Bayh say that "getting India and China" on board with parallel restrictions to the United States would be his top priority for support of a climate bill. It will be a cold day in hell hot day in the Arctic when those two countries volunteer to commit economic suicide.

An energy analysis cited in the story puts Indiana and 10 other states in a political spot called "Neverland," which means there is no "economically based reason" for the senators to get behind a mandatory cap on greenhouse gases. But, of course, that's just because the senators are stupid, as the story subtly hints: "Indiana is blessed with some of the nation's best ethanol resources and rich farmland, which could be an economic boon for property owners receiving money under a climate bill for doing things like retilling their soil to store more carbon."

Bayh says he got 8,000 letters from constituents in July slamming climate legislation, and his office heard from only 56 supporters. Hope he cares more about Hoosier opinion than winning approval from The New York Times. He's up for election next year, so maybe there's hope.

Lugar, supposedly the more conservative of the two, at times sounded even more receptive to the legislation than Bayh. He "changed the subject" when asked if he would like to see more offsets in the legislation. He said he is going to be "listening to suggestions" on how things could be "made more fair." He  said he would make a constructive set of suggestions and -- get this -- "I don't want to be a spoiler."

More's the pity.