As partisan mudslinging intensifies with the approach of election day, some people may have missed last week's fleeting moment of constructive bipartisan consensus, when a group of liberals and conservatives met in Washington to unveil a new energy plan. Unlike most of what gets introduced just before an election, this was not a soon-to-be-forgotten political ploy, but a long-term project to accomplish what Congress and the president could not: put the country on the path to a clean energy future.
This was supposed to have happened already. Along with health care and Wall Street reform, President Obama wanted an ambitious law to combat climate change, one which put a price on carbon emissions through a system known as cap and trade. Raising the cost of dirty fossil fuels was supposed to persuade polluters to develop cleaner alternatives. But after narrowly passing the House last summer, cap and trade died in the Senate for the fourth time in recent years, and probably the last. As one supporter, a clean technology expert at a Washington think tank, lamented, "Cap and trade is dead, dead, dead, corpse buried, never to be resurrected. It's time to look elsewhere.''
A good place to start is this new initiative, dubbed "Post-Partisan Power,'' that was jointly developed by the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, the left-leaning Brookings Institution, and the Breakthrough Institute, a nonpartisan California think tank. According to Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute, the group formed a year ago in the shared belief -- radical then, indisputable now -- that cap and trade would fail, and that what was really needed was what Energy Secretary Steven Chu has called "Nobel-caliber'' innovations in clean technology.