Energy bill update

As expected, President Obama met with 36 key House Democrats at the White House this morning to shore up support for the embattled Waxman-Markey energy bill, reports the Associated Press.

While Dems left the meeting rallying around a “cash for clunkers” program, there is still no consensus on that side of the aisle about how, or if, to create a cap-and-trade system that would reduce greehouse gas emissions, by making polluting energy sources (mainly coal) pay for the damage their products cause.

Such a system is popular with people concerned about global warming, but it also has support from the green energy industry (including solar). That’s in part because cap-and-trade would help make electricity generated through clean energy reach “grid parity” — price equivalence — with traditional polluting sources.

House majority leader Steny Hoyer told Reuters that even among Democrats there is “not a consensus at this time” on cap-and-trade.

Opposition by Democrats, however, is the least of the problems facing the bill.

Some Republicans see a less-than-united-front among Democratic as a rare political opportunity to exploit. Texas Republican Joe Barton has spoken gleefully about the “mass chaos” surrounding the bill, writes E&E reporter Darren Samuelsohn. And the committee’s ranking Republican, Fred Upton (Mich), declared, “You’re not going to get the votes on our side with a cap-and-trade tax, period.”

E&E recently ran sidebar giving their own prediction on how subcommittee members would likely vote on Waxman-Markey bill. All eleven predicted “Yes” votes are Democrats. All the thirteen “No” votes are Republicans. And of the dozen members in the “Maybe” category, all are Democrats, except one. The lone Republican is Mary Bono Mack, of California, who has scheduled a hearing for next Monday to push for expanding solar power projects on federal land.

Otherwise, the Republicans are looking more and more like the party of “No,” marginalizing themselves even further in the process. But to move the country forward in this critical area, Democrats will have to prove they are the party of “Yes” — not the party of “Maybe.”

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