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White House Prepares to Do Battle on Energy and Climate Legislation

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Now that everyone has calmed down and made amends after the bitter struggle over health care (ahem), many now see hints that the White House is wasting no time on gearing up for its next big fight, setting their sights on climate and energy legislation getting passed before the November midterm elections.

Sending up a flare this week was Larry Summers, head of the White House National Economic Council. Speaking at a Washington energy conference, Summers said it is “imperative” that the United States tackle climate change and address the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, warning also that the long-term economic health of the country would be jeopardized if aggressive climate and energy legislation is not passed.

Read the history of great nations,” Summers said. “Read how they succeed and read how they fail. Their ability to mobilize to solve problems before they are absolutely imminent crises is what determines their longevity. That’s why this task of economic renewal is so important broadly. And that’s why I believe it is so important that we move for economic reasons to pass comprehensive energy legislation.

Ultimately, economic policy choices, like investment decisions for a family, involve seeking opportunity and involve minimizing risk,” Summers said. “If you think about the risks to our ecology, the risks to our security, we minimize those risks with comprehensive energy policy. And if you think about the opportunity to lead in what is really important, we maximize that opportunity with comprehensive energy legislation. That’s why energy is so crucial a part of President Obama’s economic strategy.”

Such rhetorical flair from the White House is encouraging to proponents of a climate bill, considering it vital that the administration take a hands-on role if there be any hope of getting another sweeping legislative program passed this year:

It was very important symbolically that the rest of the White House, beyond Carol Browner and CEQ, is getting engaged in this battle,” said Center for American Progress senior Fellow Dan Weiss, in reference to Obama’s top climate and energy adviser and the Council on Environmental Quality.

Many Democrats are concerned about the potential for public backlash at the polls after the health care fight (even as they clean up the glass from the bricks thrown through their office windows and wade through countless messages of mindless hate stoked by the likes of Glenn Beck and others attempting to turn progress into a dirty word).

Energy and climate isn’t the only issue vying for the top spot either. Wall Street regulatory reform, short-term economic stimulus, and now a Supreme Court nominee are all pushing for the president’s attention.

Next week the new climate and energy bill from John Kerry (D), Lindsey Graham (R), and Joe Lieberman (I) is expected to be unveiled, and rumors are swirling as to what the bi-partisan legislation might contain. Like all good compromises, it is likely it will fully please no one, but still may be able to withstand the ensuing struggle. That’s if it has the president’s support, says Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change:

He needs to be active personally on everything, from the details to selling this to the American public,” said Claussen. “You can say ‘clean energy jobs,’ and there will be some, but there will also be some job losses. You’ve also got to be positive and straight, and I don’t know if anyone can do it other than the president.”

White House aide Joe Aldy, who works for Summers and Browner, said the exact approach Obama takes will be decided as the drama starts to play out.

We’ll see how the process evolves over the next few weeks and identify if and when it may be productive to do that again,” he said. “It’s hard to say now without seeing what the product is and where the process goes from there in the Senate.”

Read Summers’ full speech (pdf)

Additional source:
New York Times (Greenwire)

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