Sen. Jim Webb’s announcement that he will not run for a second term as a U.S. senator in 2012 should provide some interesting plotlines over the next few months in Virginia.

The buzz is that this move clears the way for a contest between Tim Kaine and George Allen. A clash between the former senator and the former governor could be good for the Obama campaign, as Kaine would likely be better at bringing out Democratic voters than Webb. Virginia may be critical to the Obama campaign, and having the popular Kaine, who used to run the party’s national committee, on the ballot is seen as a boost.

On the environmental front, Allen has a history of energy industry connections. He currently splits time between the campaign trail and the American Energy Freedom Center, a group with connections to Exxon that fights pro-climate policies.

With Webb, it was often unclear to environmentally minded voters what they were dealing with. When push came to shove, as it did with the Lisa Murkowski resolution to handcuff the EPA, Webb voted on the side of the environment. But he did so while taking a few shots of his own. After casting his vote he said, “I do not believe that Congress should cede its authority over an issue as important as climate change to unelected officials of the executive branch.” The senator continued: “Without proper boundaries, this finding could be the first step in a long and expensive regulatory process that could lead to overly stringent and very costly controls on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. Congress — and not the EPA — should make important policies and be accountable to the American people for them.”

As for Kaine, it's likely that he would be more traditionally minded and less outspoken if elected. He hasn’t even announced if he is running or not, but it's expected that a Kaine senatorial run would build off his governorship. Kaine remains the most popular Democrat in the state. His campaign for the corner office in Richmond has pro-renewable energy tones, including wanting to set a goal of having America on 25 percent renewable energy by 2025.

Usually a would-be incumbent resigning from politics is bad news for his party, but depending on your place in the Democratic Party and depending on Kaine's plans, Virginia may by okay in 2012.

The Webb effect in Virginia
Why the senator's bow-out may be a slight win for environmentalists.