Carol Browner is out as the White House’s Energy and Climate Change Coordinator, and there's no word on if the position will remain after her departure.
Politico first reported this news, saying Browner will return to the private sector. Browner’s departure is the final play in a political football game that couldn’t have gone worse during the last 20 months.
That game is now over. The next national election is 23 months away and climate change is a losing issue in the eyes of the Obama administration. The issue got sacked in Copenhagen. Then it gave up a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff as cap-and-trade failed. And just for good measure, it seems like Congress is going to attempt a two-point conversion and remove the EPA’s authority to regulate climate change. All this happened under Coach Browner, who despite big wins in the past, was riding one heck of a losing streak.
So Browner is out and there’s talk of contracting the team. (In this situation you can’t exactly move the team to Toronto.) Instead the Obama administration looks like it's going to table all climate efforts — punt, if you will. So what happens now?
Perhaps there will be a hint in the State of the Union. The Politico report quoted a White House aid saying, “Carol is pleased with what will be in the [State of the Union address] and in the budget [next month] on clean energy.” But where can the administration go from here?
Obama is likely to push for higher energy standards and to emphasize domestic sources like natural gas and “clean coal.” There will be talk of renewables, but will there be talk of transmission lines or price certainty? And who will be standing on the sidelines? A lot of money has been invested in clean energy on both the development side and the policy side. It has been the sole focus for countless nonprofits and advocacy organizations. And, if you remember, the threat of permanent climate change isn’t decreasing. That’s actually what this is about. Right?
The interesting part is that the State of the Union address comes on the same day as the Browner headlines. So there may be instant effort to explain the new plan, but one thing is for sure: Carol Browner will be out of the game.