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Likelihood of Energy Bill Passage Before End of Year: None to Slim


Obama Re-energizes the Energy Bill

October 23, 2009 (Updated)

If the health care debate and Afghanistan were not enough on the plate of President Barack Obama, it appears that he has not given up hope of quick passage of the energy bill, and more importantly of a deal in Copenhagen at the United Nations Climate Change Conference that is set to begin on December 7.

Today at MIT, as the Baltimore Sun reports, Obama "citing a global competition for development of clean-energy alternatives to oil, insisted today that the United States must win that race and called on Congress to enact legislation also intended to curb climate change."  The Wall Street Journal captures Obama's sense of urgency, quoting him at length:

"We face threats to our security that seek to exploit the very interconnectedness and openness so essential to our prosperity. And the system of energy that powers our economy also undermines our security and endangers our planet," he said, speaking before 750 MIT faculty, and local business leaders and politicians. "There are those who will suggest that moving toward clean energy will destroy our economy when it's the system we currently have that endangers our prosperity and prevents us from creating millions of new jobs."

Nevertheless, as the Wall Street reports that the chances of passage of the energy bill before Copenhagen are slim to none: "The president's aides had once hoped the Senate would pass a climate change bill before the United Nations' climate change summit in Copenhagen in mid-December. But now, early next year is the soonest final legislation is expected to reach the Senate floor."

These conflicting reports on whether there is any chance of action on the energy bill are possibly explained in a  Reuter's report published last week on the New York Times website:

Official Washington sounded more upbeat on Monday than it has for weeks in sizing up U.S. President Barack Obama's chances of progress on a climate-change bill in Congress this year.

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer predicted the committee she leads would approve a bill before a U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen in December while Obama's Energy Secretary Steven Chu said he hoped all of Congress would pass a law by then.

Their positive comments contrasted with those of Carol Browner, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who said 10 days ago she did not expect the U.S. Senate to act in time.

And earlier this week, there were signs that there may be some progress at Copenhagen after all. As the  New York Times reported earlier this week, "A two-day meeting of officials from countries responsible for the bulk of the world's greenhouse gas emissions ended Monday in London with hints that rich and developing nations might be able to bridge at least some of their differences on issues hobbling agreement on a new climate treaty."

The chances of the passage of the energy bill before Copenhagen are indeed slim, but apparently not none.  And with US leadership, we can only for progress in Copenhagen in December.

UPDATE: Climate activists are turning up the heat on policymakers to act both in Washington, DC and Copenhagen. Demonstrations are planned for tomorrow. This just in from the Wahington Post: "Activists around the globe are staging thousands of demonstrations Saturday aimed at prodding the world's policymakers to cut carbon concentrations to below their current levels, at a time when many U.S. officials and experts are trying to dampen expectations for international climate talks that culminate in Copenhagen in December."