For anyone eager to see the United States take a serious leadership role on the issue of global warming, this week was enormously encouraging.
It began with the White House’s announcement that it will impose the first-ever limits on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. It ended with a House committee approving a comprehensive energy and global warming bill — an important first step on legislation that seeks to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, reverse emissions of carbon dioxide and create millions of clean energy jobs.
In fairly short order, President Obama and a Democratically controlled Congress have made the lassitude and indifference of the Bush years seem like ancient history. And they have greatly improved the prospects that American negotiators will arrive at the next round of global climate negotiations in Copenhagen with a credible strategy in hand and with the leverage to encourage other major emitters like China to get cracking.
The trick now will be to sustain the momentum — at home and internationally.
The legislation approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee must survive scrutiny by other committees and, of course, the whole House. Even after the strong endorsement of expert scientists, only one of the committee’s Republicans — Mary Bono Mack of California — voted for the bill. And then comes the Senate, where 60 votes are required to overcome a filibuster and where a climate change bill crashed to defeat last year.
The House bill’s main architect, Representative Henry Waxman of California, and his chief lieutenant, Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts, have politically tailored this bill to do better.