Photo via the Washington Post
In New Orleans yesterday, Obama said that after health care reform debate wraps up, his administration is getting ready to give climate legislation a major push. Sensing the bipartisan consensus that's starting to form around the bill, the president appears ready to throw his weight behind the climate bill--and behind the compromises that would allow for more nuclear power and domestic drilling for gas and oil. We've heard this before, of course, though not necessarily straight from Obama. Many climate bill watchers were disillusioned as Obama mostly kept quiet as the House climate bill made the rounds earlier this year. And many were frustrated that he made such a public effort to push health care, while seeming to neglect energy reform. And it's hard to predict how much longer the health care debate will take--Sen. Max Baucus, author of the health care bill currently under the microscope, says it will probably take longer than most people expect.
Nonetheless, climate issues must be increasingly on Obama's radar, as the time ticks down to Copenhagen. Which may be why he's talking up the increased presence of nuclear power in the bill--a potential compromise to be made in order to draw more Republicans to the negotiating table.
"There's no reason why technologically we can't employ nuclear energy in a safe and effective way," Obama said. "Japan does it and France does it and it doesn't have greenhouse gas emissions, so it would be stupid for us not to do that in a much more effective way."Obama also said he'd be open to allowing for more provisions for drilling for oil and natural gas: "I'm in favor of finding environmentally sound ways to tap our oil and our natural gas."
Which may disappoint some of his supporters, but if such compromises can draw 4 or 5 Republican senators to support a climate bill, it could be a worthy gambit. It could be the difference in whether a bill passes at all, much less before Copenhagen. Which is still a distinct possibility, though perhaps not favored to happen--but if health care reform wraps in the coming weeks, there's still a good chunk of time left for Obama to steer the conversation towards energy reform.