Jonathan Chait

Obama's Real Energy Plan

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Dave Roberts at Grist thinks that President Obama's environmental proposals, while falling short of a demand for cap-and-trade (which he'll lose) do have some substance to them:

As it happens, most of the energy options on the table are mediocre-to-terrible (mainly Bingaman's bill and Lugar's bill). That side of the bill badly needs strengthening in three key areas if it's to be a substantial step forward:

So what three policies did Obama choose to call out individually?

Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings like we did in our cars and trucks. Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power. Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development -- and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development.

I could be reading too much into this -- "some believe" and "others wonder" aren't exactly cris de coeur -- but these words were chosen carefully. Normally Obama's energy pitch includes ritual nods to "clean coal," nuclear power, and domestic drilling. None of those made an appearance last night; it was only energy efficiency and renewable energy. That strikes me as a deliberate (and welcome) message to the Senate about what Obama wants on the energy side of a bill.

Obama just is not going to get a cap-and-trade bill. The question is whether he can can something useful out of the Senate.

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