Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Obama, senators finally discuss climate bill

The White House conference with US senators on energy and climate legislation originally scheduled for June 24 finally took place five days later. Initial indications are that several senators were cool to the administration’s call for a strong climate move in response to the Gulf of Mexico well blowout, rig explosion and crude oil spill.

The meeting lasted 90 minutes. It was a constructive exchange, the White House press office said in a statement after it was over. “The president told the senators that he still believes the best way for us to transition to a clean energy economy is with a bill that makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses by putting a price on pollution – because when companies pollute, they should be responsible for the costs to the environment and their contribution to climate change,” it said.

“Not all of the senators agreed with this approach, and the president welcomed other approaches and ideas that would take real steps to reduce our dependence on oil, create jobs, strengthen our national security, and reduce the pollution in our atmosphere,” the statement continued. “The president said that there was a strong foundation and consensus on some key policies and [he] urged the senators to come together based on that foundation.”

Carol M. Browner, the White House’s coordinator of energy, environmental, and global climate change policy sent an e-mail following the meeting which sounded the call more dramatically. “The disaster in the gulf is a wake-up call that we need a new strategy for a clean energy future, including passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation,” she said.

“Shifting to a clean energy economy won't be easy,” Browner conceded. “For decades, we have grappled with the issue of how to end our addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have lacked the political will and courage to take this important step towards securing our environment, our economy and our security.” But she added that the Obama administration has demonstrated that it can work with Congress to pass meaningful legislation dealing with health care, economic recovery, and student loan reforms, and that “now is the time to work with the same determination on comprehensive energy reform.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said following the meeting that Democrats were “energized on this issue and our resolve to act on energy legislation this summer remains strong . . . Our caucus remains ready to get to work, but this effort can go nowhere without bipartisan support. We need brave Republicans to step up and demonstrate the same commitment and leadership on this issue that Democrats have.”

Committee leaders seem more interested in dealing with issues raised as a result of the Apr. 20 Macondo well blowout and subsequent crude oil spill, however. At least four hearings and one legislative markup were due to occur simultaneously on June 30 as federal lawmakers race to get something done before the Independence Day recess.


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