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Volume3
MonthApril
Year2012
TitleThe Politics of Clean Energy: Moving Beyond the Beltway
Author(s)Joseph P. Tomain
Start Page299
AbstractThis Article argues that the United States can achieve a new and smart energy policy and that we are taking active steps in this direction. Off of the Hill, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, there is clear thinking about clean energy. Consider President Obama?s choice for Secretary of Commerce, John Bryson. Bryson has been the CEO of a public electric utility, a founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and sits on the boards of such organizations as Boeing and Disney and clean energy firms like Coda Automotive and BrightSource Energy ?exactly the right job description for a clean energy advocate. Additionally, the DOE has made U.S. leadership in clean energy technologies its first priority. Clean energy, at its core, is about business as much as it is about the environment. Simply, public and private sector actors beyond the Beltway are crafting a clean energy agenda and promoting a new energy economy.

This Article describes the path for adopting that policy and sketches the politics of clean energy. This path is smoother than attempting to pass climate change legislation because there is a significant consensus about what the contours of a clean energy policy should be and there is an emerging clean energy politics that will drive that change. Much of the politics is occurring off Capitol Hill and beyond the Beltway. Clean energy politics are emerging despite the lack of Congressional leadership. The clean energy agenda is wise because a transition to a clean energy portfolio can promote environmental protection, stimulate the economy though innovation and job creation, advance national security and ultimately reduce the cost of energy consumption.

For the purposes of this Article, the concept of a clean energy policy is defined as: (a) an aggressive reduction in oil and coal consumption; (b) the use of natural gas as a transitional fuel once hydraulic fracturing (?fracking?) is adequately addressed; and, (c) the rapid expansion of energy efficiency and renewable resources. Of course, this very general definition is neither nuanced nor comprehensive. It is intentionally ambiguous, for example, about nuclear power. Nevertheless, it will serve as a marker for a discussion of the politics involved in making this vital transition.