Welcome Back, Bipartisanship - "Cap And Dividend" To Join Climate, Energy Choices


This opinion piece is by Marian Hopkins of Business Roundtable.

Recently, President Obama signed into law one of his keystone legislative priorities - health care reform. Now, following months of debate on health care, Congress is beginning to turn its attention in earnest to other pressing issues on the legislative agenda, including climate and energy policy. And not a moment too soon. Addressing our nation's energy security, efficiency and long-term sustainability may not be as glamorous as health care, but these are some of the most significant challenges facing our country.

And, unlike health care, this seems like an area ripe for the type of bipartisan cooperation Americans have been waiting for.

We have recently been hearing about bipartisan work coming from senators on opposite coasts - Washingtonian Maria Cantwell and Maine native Susan Collins. They have introduced a bill that would institute a new system unfamiliar to many Americans, "cap and dividend." Under that framework, the traditional carbon allowance trading in cap and trade legislation would be forgone in favor of monthly carbon share auctions - an interesting addition to the climate discussion. At the same time, Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman have been working to develop their own climate and energy legislation. Kerry and Graham recently authored an op-ed that underlined the importance of a wide-ranging approach. In particular, they called for robust investments in a diverse mix of energy technologies - including renewables, clean coal and nuclear - to bridge our transition to a less carbon-dependent economy. This focus on comprehensive solutions is a positive step forward, and echoes what we have been saying at Business Roundtable: we need to deploy a balanced portfolio of energy technologies to reduce emissions and promote long-term economic growth.

While the Cantwell-Collins bill is awaiting CBO analysis, and we're not likely to see a bill from Kerry, Graham and Lieberman until Earth Day, it's really encouraging to see so much bipartisan work taking place on the Hill. In the end, for anything to pass Congress, it must be comprehensive and it must be crafted in a spirit of inclusiveness. Engaging lawmakers from both parties in the process is critical, as is bringing as many innovative ideas to the table as possible. I believe that business in particular has a lot to offer to this conversation.

As business leaders, our members bring to this discussion their role as the "doers" who are out there every day creating jobs, building prosperity, bringing energy to millions of Americans and finding new ways to make their products more efficient and sustainable. This Earth Day, April 22, we will be releasing our annual sustainability report that shows how Business Roundtable member companies are advancing sustainability - from cutting emissions and producing new forms of energy to developing innovative new vehicles and enhancing efficiency at every stage of production. For a preview, take a look at last year's report to see some of the many best practices and innovative ideas that business can bring to the table.

The simple truth is that addressing climate change will not be cost-free or easy. There is no 'silver bullet' answer to the challenge of climate change. As we outlined in our economic modeling study, The Balancing Act, our strategy must be wide-ranging and innovative, and our overall success will be measured in years and decades - not days or months. I applaud these senators for their inclusive efforts to address these issues, and I hope they will continue to engage with business in this discussion.