Did Obama Blow the Chance for Clean Energy Reform?


Photo via Wellsy

Lord knows I love me a little political wonkery from time to time--good thing, then, that there's been plenty to go around lately. The green community, myself included, has been trying to figure out what motivated Obama's two seemingly needless concessions to the conservative energy agenda (nuclear power and offshore drilling). The question boils down to this--did Obama, by up and giving away, without provocation, two of the biggest bargaining chips he could have used to attract interest in comprehensive energy reform? Did Obama blow our chances for seeing a climate bill pass the Senate this year? The pundits are certainly wondering. Matt Yglesias reacted to the offshore drilling concession by saying he didn't understand it at all. Even the more optimistic among us have been a little baffled--why go and just offer up two apparently major concessions (and concessions they were: Obama was pretty clearly against offshore drilling back in his campaign days) without securing any sort of support in return.

But that's not to say he blew it. It might even be good politics.

Mother Jones' Kate Shepperd explains:

The White House insists that its offshore drilling announcement "wasn't a matter of horse trading." But there were a number of potential political payoffs to the move. The expansion of offshore drilling provides cover for moderate, pro-drilling Democrats like Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.), and could possibly bring along a few moderate Republicans like Sen. Dick Lugar (Ind.) and drilling fans like Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Expanding drilling now could also undercut one of the key attacks expected from the "drill, baby, drill" crowd this summer, when gas prices are expected to spike again. And it allows Obama to present himself as a centrist on climate and energy issues. "The president has made it clear that he is not going to be painted by Republicans as pursuing a lefty climate and energy agenda," says Paul Bledsoe of the National Commission on Energy Policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Which may be of the utmost importance at a juncture where Obama's opponents are driving the lefty, socialist agenda schtick relentlessly (of course, it could also be argued that such concessions will do nothing in the face of that either, as nothing will ever be good enough for his most vehement opposition).

Shepperd also notes that by tacking too close to the center, Obama may lose leftier, anti-drilling Dems. But I seriously doubt that would ever be the case--at the end of the day, the importance of comprehensive energy reform would most likely bring them to the table. The big question still remains, will any Republicans besides Graham sign onto the bill? Any manufacturing and/or coal state, moderate Dems? Did Obama's concessions set a tone for a more inclusive debate, one that the GOP may actually participate in?

Or did Obama blow it? Guess we'll see.

More on Obama and Clean Energy Reform
Obama Plans Climate Bill Push, Supports Nuclear and Drilling ...
Planet 100: Obama's Nuclear Option (2/03) : Video

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