THE BLOG
06/25/2010 03:25 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The "Thrilling, Inspirational" Democratic Energy Caucus: What Does That Mean in Real LIfe?

The Hill published an articleon Thursday, June 24, 2010 with the following headline:

Dems tout 'thrilling,' 'inspirational,' 'best caucus' ever

The first few paragraphs set the tone:

Democrats put on a show of unity this afternoon, claiming a special caucus on energy legislation was an emotional and inspirational success of the first proportion.

Though they seem to lack the votes for a carbon cap, party leaders emphasized the "inspirational" nature of their discussion, attempting to throw some momentum behind legislation that has so far lacked it.

"A number of senators said this was the best caucus they've ever attended," Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) said at a press conference after the meeting. "It was really very, very powerful. It was inspirational, quite frankly."

I would love for this to be real. Here's what I think: John Kerry and Joe Lieberman introduced climate legislation that contained some useful elements, but was clearly a compromise. It contained huge nuclear subsidies, coal subsidies, offshore drilling and other poor policy elements. On the plus side, it contained the mechanism to put a price on carbon, money badly needed for research and development and support for alternatives. A mixed bag, weaker than it needed to be, but a product of the legislative process as it has evolved. In other words, kind of a mess with some necessary advances.

Then comes the British Petroleum oil apocalypse in the Gulf of Mexico. What was the reaction in the Senate? Many said the bill was dead and no legislation was going to move. There was confusion, contradiction, weeping and gnashing of teeth. Word has leaked out that the carbon cap could be for the utility sector only. Rumors abound. The fact that this graphic depiction of the failure of our energy policies ends up being a reason not to pass climate legislation is a sad commentary on the state of our leadership.

Now we have this happy little piece in The Hill which may be roughly equivalent to Lucy Van Pelt teeing up the football for us Charlie Browns once again. Or it could be something good. Everyone I know, regardless of political party, has been horrified by the ongoing gulf disaster. Could it be that the Democrats will seize on this moment of national crisis in a way that will advance priorities and initiatives to truly move us away from destructive sources of energy?

The Democrats in Congress and the President are facing a catastrophe generational scale. No $20 Billion set aside will undo the damage. No half baked moratorium will protect us from future accidents. No judge with ties to the oil company should subvert the responsibility of our government to shut down drilling. And this disaster should should give the Democrats the momentum to aggressively fix this problem with legislation. Will they finally provide the leadership on climate that the world is waiting for?