As U.S. policymakers consider how to tackle the challenge of greenhouse-gas constraints, the U.K.’s approach to the problem offers instructive examples.
The Art of the Plausible
Prospects for clean energy legislation in 2011.
Prior to the president’s state of the union address in late January, Washington was already abuzz over whether the new Congress would tackle energy legislation, which members might tackle it, and how.
The new Congress, or at least the Senate, began to consider various alternative energy policies right away. Those efforts got a strong boost from President Obama’s address. In the wake of last year’s stalemate in Congress over an economy-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) cap-and-trade system, the Obama administration has seemingly made passage of a clean energy standard 1 (CES) one of its main 2011 legislative goals. Events are moving rapidly, and issues such as the unfolding drama over the fate of Japan’s damaged nuclear power plants or the continuing impasse on the budget might overtake some of the discussion, but substantial changes could result if Congress and the administration reach a workable compromise on energy and environmental legislation.
Prioritizing Clean Energy
Prior to the state-of-the-union (SOTU) address, the administration’s energy legislation priorities were in some doubt. The president had expressed a desire to address climate and clean energy legislation in relatively ambiguous “chunks,” one of which could be a CES. Since this Congress seems likely to appropriate little or no new money to support clean energy programs, a CES might be seen by the administration as one of the only available options to advance Obama’s clean energy agenda. There could also be a sense of urgency at the White House to find something to help fill the void left by the failure to pass comprehensive climate change legislation in the previous Congress.