Admitting on July 22 “we don’t have the votes,” Reid promised reporters he would unveil a pared-down energy measure this week. A disappointed Kerry was defiant, insisting “we are going to keep pounding away on this” at year’s end. But Frank O’Donnell, president of the Clean Air Watch, dismissed autumn prospects for legislative action as “the longest of long shots.”

Reid’s announcement, while not entirely unexpected, set off recriminations. White House officials blamed environmental groups for failing to deliver “a single Republican” despite spending $100 million on lobbying and advertising. Environmental representatives blamed the White House for weak and belated support after the prolonged health care debate left little time on the congressional calendar for climate change.

Renewable energy groups next turned their efforts to persuading the Senate leadership to take up a renewable energy standard (RES) mandating that renewable fuels generate 15% to 20% of electricity production. Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) favored a 15% RES that passed his committee last year, and some Republicans say they would support the measure if clean coal and nuclear power were included in the mix of favored fuels. But by press time, Senate leaders had declined to include the RES in the energy package and instead have introduced legislation focused on restricting offshore oil drilling, restructuring oversight by the Interior Department, funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund, adding in a Home Star building efficiency program as well as incentive for the deployment of electric cars and natural gas in heavy truck fleets.