A Reason For Optimism?
Democratic control of the House and Senate changes the dynamics of legislative debates about energy. But whether the election results will translate into action remains to be seen.
One obstacle is the question of whether legislation should focus on energy supply or energy demand. The Bush Administration has stressed the former, supporting efforts to increase supplies by building new coal and nuclear power plants and opening new areas to drilling. Energy-efficiency advocates have criticized the White House for not providing more funding for conservation and renewable energy sources.
The two sides also differ about the economics of energy efficiency. The gap is widest when it comes to addressing climate change by reducing the burning of fossil fuels. President Bush voices widespread concerns about the macroeconomic price tag of steps to cut carbon dioxide emissions. Environmentalists reply that those steps could create new jobs and a healthier economy.
Nevertheless, there are reasons for optimism. One is that energy efficiency is politically important to the Democrats. That’s particularly true when efficiency is viewed in the context of climate change.
Moreover, conservation could offer a good opportunity for both sides to show bipartisanship — and to demonstrate the ability to get things done. Certainly the two parties are closer on energy efficiency than on many other issues.
I suspect that the fate of energy measures will depend on whether all the talk about cooperation really means anything. Unfortunately, on that score, history doesn’t provide much reason for optimism.