This week National Journal’s Energy Experts Blog poses the question: “What’s holding back energy & climate policy.” So far 14 wonks have posted comments including yours truly. What I propose to do here is ‘revise and extend my remarks’ to provide a clearer, more complete explanation of Capitol Hill’s energy lethargy.
To summarize my conclusions in advance, there is no momentum building for the kind of comprehensive energy legislation Congress enacted in 2005 and 2007, or the major energy bills the House passed in 2011, because:
- We are not in a presidential election year so Republicans have less to gain from passing pro-energy legislation just to frame issues and clarify policy differences for the electorate;
- Divided government makes it virtually impossible either for congressional Republicans to halt and reverse the Obama administration’s regulatory war on fossil fuels or for Hill Democrats to pass cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, or a national clean energy standard;
- Democrats paid a political price for cap-and-trade and won’t champion carbon taxes without Republicans agreeing to commit political suicide by granting them bipartisan cover;
- The national security and climate change rationales for anti-fossil fuel policies were always weak but have become increasingly implausible thanks to North America’s resurgence as an oil and gas producing province, Climategate, and developments in climate science;
- Multiple policy failures in Europe and the U.S. have eroded public and policymaker support for ‘green’ energy schemes;
- It has become increasingly evident that the Kyoto crusade was a foredoomed attempt to put policy carts before technology horses; and,
- The EPA is ‘enacting’ climate policy via administrative fiat, so environmental campaigners no longer need legislation to advance their agenda.