Cross-posted from Wonk Room.

The process-based and partisan bickering that is derailing the Senate effort to craft climate legislation provides a good opportunity to question why this ugly process is even worthwhile. Politicians seem worried that re-election is more important than policy action, failing to recognize that clean energy reform is actually the key to political success. The mood in Washington’s marble halls and office cubicles is completely disconnected with the sense of urgency and hope found just a few blocks away on the National Mall this Earth Day weekend, in the streets of Detroit, or in the farms of Roscoe, Texas. Business as usual is waging war on America’s working families, with profits for the few and irresponsible coming at the expense of everyone else’s future. Progressive clean energy reform will change the status quo, putting America to work building a stronger, fairer green economy.

What clean energy reform really means

Real benefits for real people. The economy of the past, dependent on dirty fuels, puts burdens on real people – harming their health, their children, and their pocketbook. From machinists in Eaton Rapids to entrepreneurs in New Orleans, clean energy reform gives real benefits to real working families from day one, making the air cleaner and the world safer while freeing them from enriching polluters and dictators for their energy needs.

Reward work instead of pollution. The gray energy economy relies on fossil fuels that are “cheap” only because their real costs are hidden. Money flows into low-labor, high-waste energy profiteers even as society is stuck with what the market calls “externalities.” Closing the carbon loophole will get Wall Street to invest in efficiency and renewable energy jobs that can’t be exported, restoring American manufacturing in the 21st century.

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Profits with principles. The Bush-Cheney-Gingrich energy scheme is a race to the bottom, as corporations create short-term shareholder and executive profits by corrupting the law and trashing principles of worker safety, public health, and environmental protection. Clean energy reform will allow America to dig out of this toxic hole, rewarding ethical investment instead of crony capitalism.

Give everybody a fair shot at a fair deal. Millions of Americans are ready and able to work hard to care for their families, but unregulated speculators and power merchants have left Main Street in disrepair. From the ashes of the gray economy we have the opportunity to rebuild America right, returning power to communities and giving people willing to work a fair shot at a clean and prosperous future.

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Progress is good politics. The destruction of our planet’s climate, with increasing floods, fires, storms, and droughts, threatens the hope of recovery and the fate of our nation. The grip over our political system by polluters who siphon the wealth of working Americans into offshore accounts weakens our economy. The American people have demanded change, and want action. Politicians who have the courage to become leaders in this time of crisis can rekindle our faith in the promise of America.

As President Barack Obama said of “comprehensive energy and climate legislation” today at a wind turbine plant in Fort Madison, Iowa, “Our security, our economy, and the future of our planet depend on it.”

Update: Potentially ending his spat with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) admits that “the energy bill is ready“:

The energy bill is much further down the road … Common sense dictates that if you have a bill that’s ready to go, that’s the one I’m going to go to. The energy bill is ready and we’ll move that more quickly than the bill we don’t have. I don’t have an immigration bill.

Update: Tribune reporter Jim Tankersley tweets that Graham has also dialed back his rhetoric: “Source: Graham floats compromise plan to revive #climatebill: Climate goes first; #immigration comes to vote after Nov. election.”