In the POLITICO Arena: Can Climate Change Legislation Pass This Year?

On the POLITICO Arena, we responded to the question:

Can climate change legislation pass this year?

What elements, if any, would you like to see included? And what climate change legislative proposals do you find so distasteful to constitute a deal-killer?

For more on this, join NDN Fellows Michael Moynihan, Dan Carol, and Robert Shapiro on Tuesday for a discussion entitled Accelerating the Clean Energy Economy: Key Pathways, Policies, and Pitfalls. In the meantime, here's what we had to say:

This may be one of the few times in recent memory that a significant energy bill will pass Congress in an election year, but that doesn't mean that politics won't exact a price on the major outcomes voters say they want -- freedom from oil addiction, clean energy alternatives and measurable progress on climate that doesn't disadvantage the U.S. against key economic competitors. 

Any fee or tax on liquid fuels that the GOP attack machine can call a "gas tax" is dead unless the president chooses to stake his presidency on it. This seems unlikely, and a carbon tax or cap on fuels will be a far harder political sell than the president's courageous stance in 2008 against a federal gas tax holiday.

An oil price floor below the current trading price for oil could pass -- as it would not cost consumers a dime at the pump and it would serve as effective "national security insurance" against oil prices dropping in a double-dip recession and killing off alternative fuel markets as happened in the early 1980s. The last long-shot is a utility-only cap which might slip through because enough utilities like purple-state utilities like Duke Power and Energy are demanding a long-term set of rules. Doing so could start the ball rolling on pricing carbon. On that, the big question is whether the GOP wants to risk being seen as blocking progress on building petroleum-free, "Made in USA" electric vehicles which will be stalled without a utility cap. 

The political bottom line for this long-shot outcome: A utility cap is inside Beltway baseball and isn't scary to voters like a gas tax. People won't see increases in their electric bill for a utility-only cap by November anyway. "This seems like a battle line to which enough Democrats and Republicans might chose to retreat, rather than face the worse wrath of being "do nothing" energy incumbents at the polls this fall. 

Next week, a number of these ideas will be discussed here