What’s next in the fight for a comprehensive federal policy on energy and climate change? After the US Senate’s abject failure to even take up, let alone pass, a version of legislation for which the House had already done the heavy lifting, some are tempted to give up, to assume that nothing can happen for years in such a partisan and polarized environment. But that would be a mistake.

Great and significant changes have rarely come about without a fight. Relentlessly pressing the case that action is necessary and inevitable and making clear that the issue is not going away is neither enjoyable nor easy, but it does eventually produce results[1]. Coupling that determination with the creative will to find and exploit smaller victories will yield progress.

In that vein, it is worthwhile to note an effort to achieve one of those small victories. Some of the pieces of legislation that were to be bundled with the American Power Act to fashion a comprehensive solution were to come from the Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Increasing renewable energy deployment was a key goal of that legislation. Two key elements in that effort were incentives and support for clean energy technologies and national renewable energy standards.

Senator Jeff Bingaman, the Chair of the Energy and National Resources Committee, is making an effort to move forward on one of those elements, a Clean Energy Deployment Administration. In an opinion piece yesterday (September 28th) in Politico, Bingaman appropriately invokes economic competitiveness as he asks the Senate to pass legislation incorporating this approach to addressing the market barriers to more rapid commercialization and adoption of renewable energy technologies. (Politico, virtually unknown outside the Beltway, but eagerly devoured within it, has seemingly become a leading method for legislators to reach out to and persuade their colleagues and, perhaps equally importantly, their colleagues’ staffers.)

This effort may fail, as has much else in a Congress with a determined opposition seeing near-term political advantage in blocking all action. But when jobs and economic growth are the #1 issue to the electorate, it serves an important purpose by emphasizing what we are losing by not comprehensively addressing energy and climate change.


  1. An approach with a long historical pedigree, exemplified in Ancient Rome by Cato the Elder. Reportedly ending virtually all his speeches with the saying “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam” (I advise that Carthage be destroyed), he eventually prevailed, with the destruction of Carthage in the Third Punic War. For those seeking hidden political messages, it should be noted that the Cato Institute gets its name from a series from 18th letters whose authors’ pseudonym referred to Cato the Younger, the great-grandson of Cato the Elder (though he was reportedly quite tenacious as well).
What’s next? The best defense is a relentless offense.

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