The lame duck Congress wrapped up an unusually productive session right before Christmas. Unfortunately this also means the 111th Congress has failed to pass any comprehensive energy or climate legislation. While this productive streak of bipartisanship was significant, it will likely be brief in the coming months and years.
The most optimistic of observers may see some deal possible in the next Congress, but even this rosy scenario would probably be void of any mention of pricing carbon or seriously tackling the important ecological issues of our day. The incoming 112th Congress has already committed to ending the House Climate Change Committee, and energy policy in the House will be led by ardent climate change deniers.
While the options for problem solving may be limited in the U.S. legislature, a recent slew of stories may provide hope for the new year:
The Obama administration recently reinstated the ban on new offshore oil drilling leases after failing to secure a law from Congress, and the EPA is likely to start using its newfound power to regulate carbon in a messy battle with industry.
Also, an unexpectedly successful convention in Cancun has yielded a preliminary agreement on tackling climate change. This promising sign shows vitality in the global movement to fight for a greener tomorrow.
Finally, while the recent midterm elections were generally very bad for the prospects of solving climate change, a notable bright spot must be noted: California was an exception to many national trends and overcame an attempt to derail the state's new energy law.
These are some encouraging signs that political progress is still occurring on various levels, and show that the voices of citizenry matter. It will be much more likely that states move the ball forward in these next few years, working with the federal executive to move to new energy sources. Virginia is a great example of this, with companies aligning with the state and federal government to harness the great potential for wind energy in the Atlantic. Gov. Bob McDonnell is seemingly on board with this vision of a clean energy shore, with Virginia becoming a leader toward this goal.
Many other states are looking at catching up on renewable energy use, just as a former president of Shell Oil predicts gas prices to rise to $5 a gallon by 2012. This and other bleak forecasts must be heeded, and progress must not be halted. If this pessimism can be overcome by responsible leaders, then the looming energy and ecological troubles can give way to an updated renewal of the American dream.
Photo: Ed Siasoco (aka SC Fiasco)/Flickr