At least he mentioned carbon

AT LEAST HE MENTIONED CARBON…. By all accounts, hopes of passing a comprehensive energy bill this year are dwindling, if not altogether non-existent. Meetings at the White House with congressional leaders are scheduled for mid-week, and many involved in the process are wondering what, exactly, the president is prepared to push. Obama wants the strongest bill he can sign, and he’s already touted the importance of cap-and-trade, but he also recognizes the difficulties in overcoming a Republican filibuster.

On “This Week,” Jake Tapper asked WH Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel “how important is it to the president that energy legislation includes a carbon tax.” Emanuel replied:

“[The president] campaigned on the view that you’ve got to deal with comprehensive energy, and also that energy bill has to have a climate component and helping us reduce our dependence on carbon as well as our carbon — reducing our carbon pollution. […]

“In the House of Representatives, they’ve passed a cap and trade — an energy bill with cap and trade as a component. He spoke about this in Pittsburgh. He also spoke about it in the Oval Office. Everybody is coming to the meeting next week. There will be a meeting on Wednesday, senators from both parties with array of ideas are coming to the table.

“They know the president’s perspective. He has been clear with them about what there needs to be done. His goal now, now that the House passed a bill, is to get the Senate to pass a comprehensive energy bill that reduces our dependence on foreign oil, makes key investments in the areas of alternative energy so America leads in that space, and deals fundamentally with the environmental degradation that happens from carbon pollution.”

That’s obviously not a veto threat — not that I expected one — but it was at least a step in the right direction that Emanuel twice referenced the need to address “carbon pollution.” He also twice used the word “comprehensive.”

Am I grasping at straws here? Probably a little. Indeed, it’s worth emphasizing that Emanuel has floated the idea — not on today’s show, but in policy discussions — of a limited cap-and-trade system, which would apply only to energy utilities.

Nevertheless, it’s in the White House’s interests to help lay down some markers before discussions begin in earnest with lawmakers, and Emanuel’s on-air comments help at least set some parameters — the White House is looking for a comprehensive plan that “reduces our dependence on foreign oil, makes key investments in the areas of alternative energy so America leads in that space, and deals fundamentally with the environmental degradation that happens from carbon pollution.” From there, one supposes, the details are negotiable.

For his part, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) told CNN this morning that he still believes the BP oil spill disaster will motivate his colleagues to act on an ambitious bill. Saying that his American Power Act “does have a chance and it needs to be done,” Lieberman went on to say, “There are about 50 senators who want to vote for a strong, comprehensive energy bill that puts a price on carbon pollution. There are about 30 who are set against it and there are 20 undecided. You’ve got to get to 60 to pass anything in the Senate. We need half of the undecided and we can do it.”