An exclusively clean energy bill will have great results for relatively little cost, and will be very popular as well. It reduces our dependence on foreign oil, helps prevent more disasters like these, creates jobs, and, if a provision on education and research is included, helps our public institutions of higher education. While I think that cap and trade is good policy, it is something that is completely useless if there is no global warming. For this reason, we need to pass something now that even the biggest global warming skeptics will support. The recent disasters have made people more aware of the other issues with fossil fuels, which can make a clean energy bill a huge wedge issue. If the Republicans oppose it, we can portray them as standing with big oil, regardless of what massive ecological disasters and loss of human life oil drilling can cause.
Cap and trade must wait. Already, we have seen Lindsey Graham, a key Republican ally on climate issues, stalling on a bill with cap and trade. We need his help to pass whatever we can, so we should probably put it off until later. It would be a good thing to revive in 2011, with the elections over, and the next wave far off. We have paid for healthcare with a lot of our political capital, so we can’t afford to bring up another controversial issue in an election year. Cap and trade has too many opponents among climate change skeptics and those who just see this as another tax. We have already seen many on the right demonize it. This is not possible with investing in clean energy; opponents’ arguments will look incredibly foolish, especially in light of the disasters. Furthermore, since the oil spill is affecting the South, it will be a perfect rallying cry for southern Democrats who might not have otherwise had a chance against their deeply entrenched Republican opponents. They can paint their opponents as willing to let another ecological (and, more importantly, economic) disaster like the Deepwater Horizon spill happen again. The people are against the practices of BP and companies like it. They’ve realized what can happen when oil spills occur, and know we’ll be dealing with this spill for decades (on an interesting side note, see here for how long an oil spill’s effects can be felt: http://www.boston.com/news/sci… We need to use this as a wedge issue.
When considering what course to take, we need to consider whether an idea for a bill is good policy. A clean energy bill clearly is, and it will get results very quickly. We also need to consider whether our idea is good politics, so that we have a policy that not only does not hurt us, but also hurts whoever votes against it. If we do an extensive clean energy bill, we will have a bill that is both good policy and good politics.