Carol Browner and Dr Steven Chu … the team grows.

At today’s Clean Energy Economy Forum, Carol Browner, Director of White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, said that it would be a “big mistake” if Congress passed a clean energy bill without a cap on emissions.

Browner made clear that the country needs a comprehensive bill that creates a carbon market to incentivize clean energy over the long-term.  This is the first public statement I’ve heard from the White House pushing back on the statements by some Senators (not Majority Leader Reid) that have suggested they would prefer to do an energy-only bill.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu was even more blunt.

Chu said a shrinking cap and rising carbon price was “very, very important.”  He said it is the part of the bill “that really means something,” and “the rest is just carrots.”  Chu is a big supporter of carrots but was clear that the long-term signal and steady emissions reductions were critical to avoid catastrophe.

He specifically refenced the recent definitive NOAA-led report on U.S. climate impacts that warns of scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90°F some 120 days a year (which that isn’t the worst case, it’s business as usual).

Chu pointed out that on our current emissions path, St. Louis, Missouri would spend one third the year.

Finally, Commerce Secretary Locke said it is “absolutely important we pass this” bill, that it is incredibly important for economic competitiveness, pointing out that China spends $12 million an hour on clean energy!