Muckraker: Grist on Politics

The government in waiting Center for American Progress today organized a panel on “Green Recovery,” bringing together some power-players in that realm to talk about the prospects of getting energy and environmental components into both the short- and long-term vision for economic growth. Two of the players — former EPA administrator Carol Browner and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell — are among the names being floated as top picks to fill key posts in an Obama administration.

Browner, who is currently advising Obama’s transition team and heading up his energy and environmental policy working group, didn’t respond directly to a question about whether she’d want to fill a possible post in the next administration designated to work specifically on climate and energy policy. She did, however, poke fun at the New York Timesuse of the word “czarina” to describe her possible position, noting that the term actually means “wife of the czar.” “I’m pretty sure my husband isn’t going to be czar of anything,” she said.

Rendell, who has been rumored as a possible candidate for Secretary of Energy, said that he’s not likely to accept that post and that he intends to serve out his term as governor. If he were to take the post, under Pennsylvania law the State Senate President Joseph Scarnati would become the acting governor for the rest of his term — and the current president, he said, is “a good man, but he’s very conservative.” His Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll, who would normally assume the role, died last month after battling cancer.

As for who should be appointed to that post, Rendell noted that “there are some great people” being rumored as candidates, and “plenty of governors … are on the cutting edge of this.” The only person he mentioned by name, however, was Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

Rendell also endorsed the idea of a national council on energy and climate policy, which he said he’d “be honored to serve on” were one created.

Rendell, who this summer signed off on a $650 million energy investment fund for his state, called for five different actions or programs to grow the green economy: making the tax credits for renewable energy permanent, creating a national renewable portfolio standard, creating fuel portfolio standards, investing in infrastructure repair, and — much less popular for the environmental community — major federal investment in “clean coal” technology. It’s “something you all probably aren’t going to like,” he said, “but you gotta live with it.”

“No matter how much we advance toward renewables, it’s going to be a while — if ever — before we can replace fossil fuels,” he continued. “We can’t turn our back on coal, but we can’t build any new coal fired power plants without carbon controls.”

Also appearing on the panel was Tom Friedman, New York Times columnist and author of the recent book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution — and How It Can Renew America. Friedman argued, as he has in print previously, that a green revolution is crucial to not only curbing climate change, but getting the economy back on track, keeping the nation secure, and reinstating the country’s global dominance. “We’ve lost our groove as a country somewhere along the way, and we need to get our groove back,” he said.

That way of talking about it, he said, should be a win for any ideological position. “To Rush Limbaugh I say, ‘Rush, I have a bold new plan to make America stronger … oh, and by the way it will do all those things Al Gore is talking about,’” he said. “And to greens I say, ‘I have a plan to make America green … and by the way it will solve all those things Dick Cheney is worried about.’”