Graham says shape of Senate carbon controls is up in the air

Creating a cost for producing greenhouse gases is considered essential for many advocates of cutting emissions, because it would give companies motivation to reduce carbon dioxide output and put a premium on development of green energy sources.

Graham’s comments come after Kerry raised some eyebrows when he made similar remarks at the Copenhagen climate talks.

“I can’t tell you the method or the means, amount, by which we might price carbon. I can’t tell you that. We have not resolved that issue yet,” Kerry said Dec. 16, later clarifying that “I think it's going to include some kind of trading mechanism.”

The comments, taken together, show that senators are mulling an array of options and may not simply use the House-approved system as a template.

Some lawmakers have discussed limiting the cap-and-trade system to electric power plants, and using some other mechanism to address emissions from cars and trucks and other economic sectors.

And Sens. Maria CantwellMaria CantwellThis week: Congress on track to miss Puerto Rico deadline Week ahead: Senate looks to wrap up energy, water spending bill Senate, House face time crunch on energy bill MORE (D-Wash.) and Susan CollinsSusan CollinsLarry Wilmore, Sting party in DC ahead of WHCD GOP women push Trump on VP pick Sanders is most popular senator, according to constituent poll MORE (R-Maine) are pushing, as Graham noted, a “cap-and-dividend” plan that greatly limits trading of emissions permits and regulates a smaller number of carbon dioxide sources than the House-approved bill.

A bill imposing mandatory curbs on emissions faces significant opposition in the Senate. Graham wants to blend greenhouse gas limits with expansion of U.S. offshore drilling and increased federal financial support for nuclear power.

I’ll have a broader look at what’s happening in the Senate soon.