German and American government officials viewed as positive the House passage of a health care bill, speaking Monday in Berlin at the opening of the second German American Energy Conference. In keeping with the meeting’s theme of seeking expanded markets for renewables and energy efficiency, officials said they see signs of the health care logjam being freed as conducive to having new national U.S. energy legislation later this year.
Opening speakers from Germany, including the federal economics/technology minister, head of the national energy agency and heads of the separate business and industrial associations, all speculated that the prospect of health care legislation passing increases the prospects that Congress will pass an energy bill late this year that will help advance renewables with a national standard and perhaps a cap-and-trade system on carbon emissions.
Noting that health care isn’t a done deal, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Philip Murphy said admittedly the entire health care legislative process has been “a little messy and only one political party is giving its votes,” but putting aside the partisan viewpoints, the fact of the matter is, ‘If you don’t like blood, don’t go into the operating room at the hospital.’ What we need to look like is what the patient looks like after the operating room.”
The ambassador said that on the drawing board is “comprehensive climate change and energy legislation,” focused on building areas of bipartisan agreement. A current legislative proposal mandating a 25% carbon emissions reduction standard by 2020 met by a combination of renewables, energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage is being hammered out by Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT).
“Assuming the president and Congress succeed [on health care] this week, the energy/climate legislation should have the space needed to get enacted,” he said.
Murphy stressed that the Obama administration has already gone “far, fast” with energy, and that it should benefit from the health care progress freeing up room for other major issues. “[The president] believes that the United States must build a clean energy economy, and to truly transform our government we need to make clean energy truly profitable.
“A lasting lesson from the recent global financial crisis is that business as usual is no longer sustainable. Clean, renewable energy will be one of the growth industries of the 21st century.”
Murphy cited a list of what he called Obama administration accomplishments in the areas of energy and climate change while acknowledging that the nation and the world have much further to go.
Echoing his other German colleagues, Werner Schnappauf, director general of the Federation of German Industries, said that with the movement on health care, the Obama administration can now “tackle energy legislation,” and he sees that as a positive sign for both sides of the Atlantic.
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