President Barack Obama wanted to pass a comprehensive clean energy and climate pollution reduction law, but it didn’t happen during his administration’s first two years. Now that Republicans have won control of the House and dramatically narrowed the party split in the Senate there are two paths Congress and the administration can take toward energy legislation that would create jobs, reduce oil use, and cut pollution—cooperation or confrontation.
After the election day hurricane that replaced moderate legislators with conservatives it’s clear that comprehensive global warming solutions are off the congressional agenda for two years. President Obama acknowledged this before the election when he said in an exclusive interview with the National Journal on October 24 that “another big omnibus, comprehensive one-size-fits-all energy bill” isn’t likely. But he suggested that he is willing to take the cooperation path. The president expressed optimism that he could find common ground with Republicans on some energy issues.
Three sets of clean energy objectives do enjoy fairly broad bipartisan support: reducing oil consumption; investing in renewable and efficient energy solutions that create jobs; and new protections to prevent future BP oil disasters. Here’s what a cooperation agenda between Congress and the administration on energy could include to address these problems:
- The BP oil disaster and rising oil prices are reminders that the United States must dramatically reduce its oil use to enhance energy security and economic prosperity. Americans currently spend $1 billion per day on oil imports, and one out of every five barrels of oil consumed in the United States comes from countries the State Department classifies as “dangerous or unstable.” Several bipartisan proposals could reduce oil use by investing in natural gas trucks and electric cars.
- One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to reduce pollution and save money is to simply use less energy in our homes and businesses. Several possible measures would provide incentives for homeowners and building owners to invest in simple and effective energy savings measures that will lower electricity bills and return these savings to families’ or businesses pockets. These incentives will also create thousands of jobs in energy efficiency technology sales and installation.
- The BP oil disaster is officially over, but an undetermined amount of oil from the 180 million gallons remains in the Gulf of Mexico. This poses a long-term threat to the gulf’s aquatic life and shoreline. It is critical that BP be held accountable for this huge disaster and that big oil companies are held responsible for future spills. Additional safety measures to protect oil rig employees and new requirements to prevent future blowouts or spills are also needed.
The just-elected 112th Congress will be quite different—and much more conservative—than the 111th Congress that enacted major health care and financial reforms but failed on clean energy legislation. Potential still exists, however, for bipartisan cooperation between President Obama and the Republicans in Congress on reducing oil use, investing in clean energy technologies and jobs, and preventing future oil disaster.
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