WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama's proposal that U.S. energy and climate policy may be implemented bit by bit means that companies will have less incentive to grow their green-energy businesses.
Obama told Rolling Stone magazine last month that following the Senate's failure to pass comprehensive climate legislation that would have put a price on greenhouse gas emissions, energy policy may have to be done in "chunks."
But if Republicans take control of either house of Congress in the November 2 elections, passing limited energy measures such as a price on carbon emissions only from power companies or a renewable-energy standard, requiring utilities produce minimum amounts of power from sources like wind and solar farms, would be improbable for the remainder of Obama's first term.
Even if Republicans fail to capture either house, and Obama can corral the votes to pass such legislation, piecemeal laws will come nowhere near a comprehensive overhaul and may even be detrimental to making lasting changes in the energy system, increasing energy security, or cutting emissions blamed for warming the planet.
"You are going to adopt policies in the order of their ease of passing rather than in the order of rational policy making," Adele Morris, policy director for climate and economics at Washington-based Brookings Institution think tank, said about taking an incremental approach to energy. "There are a lot of things that are bad ideas but are easy to pass."
As Washington struggles with energy policy, the gap between the United States and China, the world's two largest carbon polluters, is growing ahead of global climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, starting in late November. Here too, an incremental approach will likely dominate. … Read more