A popular parlor game in Washington is trying to figure out whether the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has helped or hurt chances for passage of comprehensive energy and climate change legislation. President Obama tried to bolster its prospects in his news conference on Thursday, saying the crisis highlights the need to find alternatives to the deadly and dirty fossil fuels oil and coal.
“More than anything else,” he said in his opening remarks, “this economic and environmental tragedy — and it is a tragedy — underscores the urgent need for this nation to develop clean, renewable sources of energy.”
Mr. Obama noted that the House had already passed a broad bill putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions and providing large incentives for conservation and new forms of energy. He said the Senate should act on a measure that was introduced earlier this month by Senators John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut.
“If nothing else, this disaster should serve as a wake-up call that it’s time to move forward on this legislation,” the president said. “It’s time to accelerate the competition with countries like China who’ve already realized the future lies in renewable energy. And it’s time to seize that future ourselves.”
Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lieberman have used the last several weeks, when all eyes were fixed on the catastrophe in the gulf, to quietly begin rounding up support for their measure from corporations that have been supportive of climate legislation and from environmental groups that are financing advertising and grass-roots efforts.
As part of that campaign, 60 corporations sent Mr. Obama and senators a letter urging them to act quickly on legislation.
The letter, signed by executives of big-name companies like Alcoa, Chrysler, DuPont, Exelon, General Electric, Shell and Weyerhaeuser, says: “The time to act is now. The U.S. needs a comprehensive energy and climate policy that will get us back on track by creating American jobs in the new, low-carbon economy.”
In an op-ed article published this week in Roll Call, Senator Kerry urged his colleagues to prove the doubters — and there are many — wrong by passing his legislation this year. He reminded fellow senators that things are not likely to get any easier.
“Ultimately, this is an issue to lead on — now, not at some future date to be decided — because this may be the last and certainly the best chance for the Senate to act,” Mr. Kerry wrote.
“The odds are that the next Senate — given a 2012 presidential campaign added to the dynamic and a slew of new senators replacing many who are retiring and who have contributed to the progress we’ve made — is going to be less likely than this one to find a path to the 60 votes needed for passage. Practically speaking, we’ve got to get it done this year.”
By JOHN M. BRODER/NYT