May 12, 2009

Will Climate Change Reach Pennsylvania Avenue?

It is safe to say that the momentum is not behind the enactment of a broad climate change bill this year.  However, the more important question is whether it will happen next year.

For those who are still unsure whether the climate change bill will be completed this year, let me provide a few reasons it is unlikely:

  • Chair of the Senate Committee with jurisdiction (Environment & Public Works) hasn’t released legislation yet.
  • Midwest Democratic Senators have said they don’t see a bill moving this year.
  • Congressman Van Hollen (D-Md.) has suggested a vote might not take place this year.  This is significant because Van Hollen is head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and is responsible for electing more Democrats to the House and ensuring vulnerable Democratic members get re-elected.  This tells me that there is a worry that a climate change bill may not be selling well in swing districts.
  • Chairman Waxman is still struggling to find a majority of votes in his committee to pass a bill.

Using a crystal ball to look at the political landscape in 2010 – which is President Obama’s first mid-term election year—I see that politicians will be more risk averse the closer it gets to an election, and this one is just 6 months away.  Also, will politicians feel that the climate change “issue?? is better to have at their side during the 2010 campaign rather than trying to campaign on the success of a compromised climate change bill, which no one may be excited about?  And what will the state of our economy be and will it provide fodder for the opponents of climate change legislation who characterize it as an energy tax?

I see no improved political landscape for the enactment of climate change legislation next year.  With that said, for the home appliance industry, a separate agreement on HFC’s could splinter off and move on its own, which would provide some measure of success for the proponents of climate change legislation. But, there are many unknowns, politically, as we approach the mid-term elections.

Charlie Cook, a weekly columnist on national politics, recently wrote: “So we wait to see if President Obama will be a liability for Democrats, as presidents going into midterm elections often are, or if the momentum that Democrats built in 2006 and 2008 carries through.  We wait to see if Republicans either effectively regroup from their massive losses and mount a strong counterattack or if they are positioned to take advantage of political misfortunes and win simply because they are not Democrats.??

The legislative and political atmosphere can change quickly and we, as an industry, need to be prepared for anything that could enter the fray of climate change politics.  Remember, if climate change doesn’t get enacted into law in 2010, 2011 is a non-election year, but 2012 is right around the corner, and that, believe it or not folks, is another presidential election year.