WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham makes an unlikely champion for action on climate change.
The South Carolina Republican has joined forces with Democratic U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and independent U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut to drum up support for a bill that would put a price on heat-trapping pollution.
Graham's position has irked just about everybody.
He has been censured by Republicans back home. Environmentalists have criticized his push for nuclear energy and more oil drilling. Some Democrats are just befuddled.
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But his ability to attract enough votes for a bill to pass the Senate may well determine whether President Barack Obama can deliver on the promises he made at U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen last week, and whether he will achieve one of his top domestic priorities: setting up a cap-and-trade system that would put a price on each ton of global warming pollution released.
How did you get involved in this issue?
"It was a slow evolution. I started traveling with Sen. (John) McCain, who has been a climate change advocate for a long time, and I went to the Arctic region with him and Sen. (Hillary Rodham) Clinton. I came to the conclusion from listening to the scientists ... from people who lived in the regions, that the canary in the coal mine is in the Arctic regions, and that the planet is heating up."
Why haven't you been able to convince other Republicans to buy your argument?
"I can convince Republicans pretty quickly of (oil and gas) drilling, nuclear power and alternative energy. This is not about polar bears for me, it's about jobs, cleaner air and purer water.
Cap-and-trade has been a tainted term. The bills that exist today have not been able to gather moderate Democratic support; they have not been able to gather Republican support. The cap-and-trade system has been called cap-and-tax, and I think for some good reasons. So what I have to convince Republicans of is that you know as well as I do this is the best way for us to create new jobs in the future, that you know the green economy is coming worldwide and the only way we are going to get there is to lead, not follow."