Will the Obama administration make a push for cap-and-trade legislation in the Senate Climate bill?

Well, before he tips his hand, did you catch John Kerry last Sunday on ABC's This Week, discussing his Climate bill?  Apparently, cap-and-trade, or a flat out carbon tax, is off the table.  And according to Senate leaders Harry Reid and Charles Schumer, the Kerry-Lieberman bill will only be added as an amendment to a different Senate energy bill.

As Talking Points Memo's Brian Beautler wrote on Monday:

That procedural avenue would make the chances of rounding up 60 votes for capping and pricing carbon more difficult, but is of a piece with the noises coming out of Reid's own office. Keying off the oil spill in a letter delivered last week, Reid asked several committee chairmen to offer up ideas in time for him to put together an energy bill in July--this despite the fact that the Kerry-Lieberman bill is already drafted, and has been at the center of the energy debate in the Senate for months.

So, perhaps we won't be getting that major speech and radical plan on energy that the moment calls for?  Even offshore drilling critic Senator Bill Nelson has said the oil spill would make it harder to pass a climate change bill, at least for him.

But one could argue, it not now, when?  President Obama has at times been unfairly criticized for not doing "enough" during this current environmental crises.  But some could argue that not moving on an energy policy that seriously takes the moment at hand as a time for a significant change in energy policy would be his most egregious failure to ac

There has been contrasting views on what the oil gusher in the gulf means for the future of the county's energy policy.

In the immediate shock of the spill, environmentalists argued (and still do) that this was a defining moment in the country's history, and like the 1969 spill off the shores of Santa Barbara which led to the first Earth Day and a new consciousness about the environment, the great spill of 2010 would do the same to jump-start a country previously afraid to enter the brave new world of less dependency on petroleum, and more on alternative fuels.

In the current Newsweek, columnist Jonathan Alter, who has shown in his new book The Promise that he has solid sources inside the White House, writes that President Obama will soon give a major speech to point out the need for comprehensive energy reform.  Alter writes:

The White House’s new legislative strategy is to apparently attach a landmark change in energy policy—namely, a price on carbon—to the bill bringing aid to the region. Just as the 1969 oil spill that soiled the coast near Santa Barbara, Calif., helped lead to Earth Day and the establishment of the Clean Air Act, perhaps this spill will generate the nation’s first true clean-energy program.

That would indeed be mighty bold - and something that some analysts say is what was desperately need for sometime before the Deepwater Horizon's drilling rig exploded.

In fact the administration has played it very conservatively in the months since the House of Representatives, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, pushed through a narrow Energy bill last June that conservative critics immediately dubbed "Cap-and-Tax".  Some of those House Democrats who supported the bill were alleged to have become politically vulnerable after that vote (in conjunction with supporting the stimulus, and later health care reform).

Recently South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham backed away from supporting a Senate version of that House energy bill that is still being sponsored by John Kerry and Joe Lieberman.  As Eric Pooley, deputy editor of Bloomberg BusinessWeek writes, in early 2009 the Obama administration devised a "stealth" strategy as they realized supporting cap-and-trade wasn't going over well with the populace:

The idea had been to pass the stimulus package and use the green jobs it created as proof of concept, "the first blade of the scissors," as economic adviser Larry Summers described it. But only a fraction of the stimulus money would be spent in 2009, and tallying the number of green jobs it created was a bureaucratic nightmare—Van Jones was running an interagency process to figure out how to do it, but it would take months to get a defensible result. In the meantime, the deny-and-delay crowd was hammering at the whole idea of the clean-energy economy, and Axelrod's polls were showing that people were increasingly skeptical of "green jobs." That wasn't going to change as long as the White House remained reluctant to get out there and fight the economic battle.

Then earlier this year, the President used as a bargaining chip on March 31 a call for expanding offshore drilling, which alienated many of his liberal supporters, as well as for subsidies for nuclear power and "clean coal", but that idea went out the window after the events of April 20 some 40 miles off the Louisiana coast when the spill occurred.  So will Obama go for broke at this time of our national need.

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