Browner and Others Make It Clear: Climate Legislation Is Moving Forward

I have read many articles in the past few days trying to assess how committed Washington is to passing a comprehensive clean energy and climate this year. But if there were any lingering doubts about where the White House stood, they were removed on Monday.

Carol Browner, assistant to president for energy and climate, hosted a live chat on the White House webpage, talking about President Obama’s commitment to creating a new, clean energy economy. You watch it here.



Browner explicitly called for comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation.

She has said similar things before, but the context of her comments is significant right now. She reiterated the administration’s support for the bill as part of an official White House series in the run up to the State of the Union address. Not only that, but she got the first slot in this ongoing feature.

That’s right, clean energy and climate legislation got top billing in this White House forum.

This doesn’t come as a surprise to me. I met with President Obama in the White House in early December, and he made it clear this is one of his top priorities. I also saw him in action in Copenhagen, where he rolled up his sleeves and put pen to paper in order to craft an international accord.

Still, having his main climate advisor broadcast the fact that the White House supports clean energy and climate legislation sends a powerful message just as the conversation heats up in the Senate.

I am hopeful the message will be received at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Some voices claim that the air has gone out of the climate balloon. They say there is little energy left to pass the bill in an election year.

The truth is that these are the same people who predicted the demise of the clean energy and climate bill in the House of Representatives--right before it passed in June. And they are the same people who forecast that the Senate’s version of the bill would never make it out of committee--right before it did in November. They say these things because they want to believe them, not because they are true.

The same goes for the patently false notion that Congress doesn’t take up major environmental legislation in election years. The sweeping amendments to the Clean Air Act--the ones that introduced the cap-and-trade program for Acid Rain--were passed in 1990. The Safe Drinking Water Act and the Food Quality Protection Act were both passed in 1996. The FQPA act had been bogged down for years in contentious battles, and yet it still got approved during an election cycle.

These pseudo political insights can’t mask the fact that clean energy and climate legislation remains a priority for the White House and key members of Congress.

The evidence is all around us.

I see it in Carol Browner’s chat today. I see it in Senator Kerry’s recent assertion that an integrated climate and energy bill is the best way to unleash innovation and create jobs. And I see it in Republican Senator Graham’s comments the other day when he said, “If we fail on climate change and energy, where will our new jobs come from to pay our Social Security and Medicare bills?”

Let the naysayers predict a breakdown. The rest of us are busy trying to put real solutions in place that will benefit our economy, our workers, and our planet.