Tonight, President Obama will give the annual State of the Union address and he will likely make a push for passing climate change legislation in 2010. Climate change legislation is currently not at the top of the Senate’s agenda, and it appears the President hopes that his speech will give it the nudge it needs to move forward. He recognizes that moving the bill forward won’t be easy. At a recent town hall meeting in Ohio, the President said, “I'm not ideological about this. But we also have to acknowledge that if we're going to actually have an energy-independent economy, we've got to make some changes. We can't just keep on doing business the same way. And that's going to be a big, complicated discussion."
The President knows he faces a number of hurdles as he pushes climate change legislation, including the fact that the topic is not at the top of the Senate’s agenda. After the grueling battle over health care, many Senators may not want to address the oft-controversial topic of climate change, particularly with mid-term elections this November. Indeed, some moderate Democrats have begun to shift away from backing climate legislation, as can be seen by the bi-partisan support for Senator Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) resolution that would purport to void the EPA’s recent greenhouse gas endangerment finding. Coupled with the move of some moderate Democrats is Scott Brown's (R) recent win of the Massachusetts Senate seat that took away the Democrat's filibuster proof majority.
Another main reason that legislation faces an uphill battle is that the majority of Republicans completely disagree with any legislation that includes a cap-and-trade program. So, if Congress is going to pass climate legislation in the near future, a different policy might have to be examined and embraced. While policy alternatives such as a carbon tax or a cap-and-dividend approach have been suggested by some, it seems that the majority of Democrats are resistant to policy approaches other than cap-and-trade, at least at this time.
Because of the political challenges apparently associated with passing GHG emission limiting legislation, Congress may fail to do any more than pass a comprehensive energy package that is merely "climate friendly" and promotes green jobs and new technology development.