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Where Can Lawmakers Find Consensus on Energy Policy Next Congress?

In a post-midterm press conference today, President Obama called on lawmakers to find areas of consensus on energy policy.

Well, I think I’ve been willing to compromise in the past and I’m going to be willing to compromise going forward on a whole range of issues. Let me give you an example — the issue of energy that I just mentioned. I think there are a lot of Republicans that ran against the energy bill that passed in the House last year. And so it’s doubtful that you could get the votes to pass that through the House this year or next year or the year after. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t agreement that we should have a better energy policy. And so let’s find those areas where we can agree.

Obama specifically mentioned a number of broad issues where he believes Democrats and Republicans can find consensus, including expanding the use of natural gas resources, incentivizing electric vehicles and developing a more robust nuclear power industry.

Obama continued:

Let’s go ahead and start making some progress on the things that we do agree on, and we can continue to have a strong and healthy debate about those areas where we don’t.

In that spirit, I thought I’d outline some of the policy proposals that could get bipartisan support in Congress.

At a press conference with environmentalists today, I asked Anna Aurilio, director of the Washington office of Environment America, what she thought could pass next Congress. She mentioned a renewable energy standard, which would require a certain percentage of the country’s electricity to come from renewable sources like wind and solar. Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kans.) introduced an RES in late September. The bill gained a number of Republican co-sponsors, and proponents are convinced it can pass the Senate.

But Republican gains in the Senate could mean a renewed push to add nuclear power and so-called clean coal into the mix. Aurilio said that environmentalists are “concerned” about that potential scenario and stressed that coal and nuclear are outside the bounds of an RES.

Other possible bipartisan proposals include the Homestar bill, which would give consumers incentives to make their homes more efficient; a proposal on appliance efficiency; a bill to extend a Treasury grant program for renewables; and a bill to establish a land and water conservation fund.

Asked about the oil spill response bill — which was passed by the House, but was never passed in the Senate — Aurilio said simply, “It needs to happen.” League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski, asked by TWI about the oil spill response bill, said, “It should have already passed,” and acknowledged that it will be difficult to pass such a bill in the lame-duck session. While the prospects for passage in the next Congress are also unclear, Karpinski said the results of the national oil spill commission’s investigation may provide an incentive to move the bill forward.

For more on energy bills that could pass next Congress, see this piece by Dan Weiss, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

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