Remember the healthcare debate? Many Republicans said it was too much, too fast. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), one of Washington's most respected senators, told me that he would have been more open to considering the overhaul if it was done in a piecemeal, incremental fashion. We all know that wasn’t the approach the president and other Democrats on Capitol Hill took then, but it may be the best choice they have for tackling energy policy next year.
In a Rolling Stone article available online, President Obama suggests that 2011 will be the year for taking on energy policy, one step at a time. “We may end up having to do it in chunks, as opposed to some sort of comprehensive omnibus legislation. But we're going to stay on this because it is good for our economy, it's good for our national security, and, ultimately, it's good for our environment,” Obama said when pressed about the climate issue.
If it is going to be a piecemeal approach, the first piece may already be in the works. Republicans are one-by-one supporting a Renewable Energy Standard, making sure that an increasing amount of America’s energy be produced from renewable sources over the next three decades. If this is the piece that gets done before 2011, then what will get done after the new year?
While President Obama didn’t get overly specific about timing in the Rolling Stone article, a post on Politico revealed that there may be some Republican support for other parts of the solution. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) didn’t go as far to say he would support the cap-and-trade bill that failed to be introduced in the Senate this summer, but he seemed rational in his approach to a future cap on carbon emissions in some form. "Maybe we just put a lid on carbon from smokestacks, tie it to production of nuclear and treat it like lead," Alexander said in the report.
All of this sounds exceptionally rational, especially in the middle of an irrational election season. Of course, depending on what happens on Nov. 2, the political tides could turn. It may be Republicans who will call for an all-or-nothing agenda and Democrats who want things done piece-by-piece.
So here’s looking to 2011, a year when someone or some party may have to be rational, a year when America takes on its energy challenges one piece at a time.