A lot can change in two years. Just ask Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

A comprehensive energy and climate bill just isn’t in the cards for the United States anytime soon. Instead, the embattled Senate majority leader now will simply play the hand that he’s been dealt. Ironically, Reid’s most powerful card comes from one of America’s best-known oilmen.  

At the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, where Reid received a standing ovation, oilman T. Boone Pickens touted his own plan for bolstering renewable energy production. The Pickens Plan is a 10-year path to fund wind, natural gas, and transmission capabilities with the goal of having the United States produce 20 percent of the nation’s energy from wind-generation facilities.

Politically, Pickens has something Reid doesn’t have: Favorability across the political aisle. Beyond funding the “swift boat” attack adds that sank John Kerry’s presidential campaign, Pickens has a way with words that can resonate with both the economic and hawkish wings of the Republican Party. "How can you use oil from the enemy that is dirty and more expensive?" Pickens asked during the Las Vegas conference. "I am telling you, we are going to go down in history as the dumbest crowd that ever was."

During the conference, Reid acknowledged that what little support existed for earlier versions of a cap-and-trade bill continues to evaporate as the mid-term elections near. So instead, Reid said a lighter bill will soon be introduced, and guess what it will be modeled after? The Pickens Plan.

Reid announced that before year’s end, he would introduce a version of the Pickens Plan that incentivizes America’s natural sources of energy. For many environmentalists, that isn’t close to everything they had hoped for when they supported the Democratic agenda in 2008. But in 2010, the game plan has changed. Now it’s just about getting something done on energy.

That is one big shift. Environmentalists’ best hope for something is now being modeled after an oilman’s plan.

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