By Eileen Claussen and Manik Roy
This article originally appeared in Politico .
“And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.” – President Obama, State of the Union speech, January 27, 2010
Weeks of speculation about the President’s commitment to an energy-climate bill ended with the above words.
Next up: weeks of speculation about whether this was a wise decision.
Not acting now may appeal to some, but several problems grow only more expensive, complicated, and politically challenging if we delay until, say, 2012:
For these reasons, among others, the President has recommitted himself to an energy-climate bill. We offer three modest suggestions for increasing the chance of success:
First, the President needs to continue explaining to the American public why enactment of an energy-climate bill is essential for meeting our economic, security, and environmental objectives.
Second, the Administration needs to thoroughly engage in the negotiations over the bill, so that, as one key moderate has put it, moderates don't have to negotiate four times (first with the Chairman, then the Majority Leader, then the House, then the Administration).
Third, and most important: The President needs to provide full partnership to Republicans willing to engage in good faith. This isn’t post-Massachusetts hysteria talking – there never was a partisan option for passing this bill through the Senate.
Fortunately, the Senate has a history of real Republican leadership on environmental issues in general and climate in particular, leadership we see re-emerging in the respective efforts of Sen. Graham and Sen. Collins. At the very least, we need the support of the handful of other Republican Senators who have supported reducing carbon pollution in previous years, but better still would be an energy-climate bill so balanced that it works for most of both party caucuses.
The President’s support for nuclear power and oil and gas production starts to strike that balance, but he may also have to be open to a range of proposals for reducing carbon pollution. The basic test should be whether the policy would reduce carbon pollution by making it increasingly costly, thereby rewarding businesses that invent and deploy clean energy technologies.
All of which brings us back to the first question: Was it wise for the President to stake himself to an issue whose only chance for success lies in bipartisan leadership?
With the right next steps, we think it could prove the right decision.
Eileen Claussen is President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Manik Roy is the Pew Center’s Vice President for Federal Government Outreach.