What will the United States do in response? Several bills are working their way through Congress, but the momentum will shift to the presidential candidates this summer. Should one of those candidates be Hillary Clinton, than the Center for American Progress would probably be a good place to look for clues to her policy.
The center has been described as Hillary's think tank. The organization is led by former Clinton White House chief of staff, John Podesta. He testified before the House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming on Wednesday and outlined an energy policy that he insisted the next president must put at the center of his ("or her") economic policy.
He outlines 10 steps to move the country from a high-carbon economy to a low-carbon one. He makes the usual noises about the number of jobs that would be created by adopting and developing new technologies.
He fully embraces cap-and-trade, noting that it will happen on a regional level if Washington doesn't act. But he urges Congress to get moving, and emphasizes that emission credit should be auctioned, not freely given. The revenue generated by those auctions should be used to offset the impact on the poor, with 10 percent going to carbon-intensive industries to help them with the cost.
He also argues for steps to end suburban sprawl, increase fuel efficiency of cars, improve the efficiency of the electricity grid, using the buying power of the federal government to promote renewable fuel and helping to fund research into carbon capture technology.
Maybe most striking is his tone. These aren't some policy goals for incremental change.
The urgency of this issue demands a president willing to make the low-carbon energy challenge a top priority in the White House—a centerpiece not only of his or her energy policy but also of his or her economic program—to produce broad-based growth and sustain American economic leadership in the 21st century. This task is so encompassing it will demand that the incoming president in 2009 reorganize the mission and responsibility of all relevant government agencies—economic, national security, and environmental.
He ends by creating a vision of the United States leading the rest of the world in the fight against climate change. After eight years of denial, it's slightly hard to comprehend the potential for changes in 2009.