I'm sifting through the impeccably organized 55-chapter "Change for America" volume released today by the Center for American Progress. A call for swift and sound environmental action, from infrastructure development to the creation of a White House level "National Energy Council" wafts through several of the sections on general domestic, economic and national security policy. CAP also includes microtargeted chapters on the Departments of Transportation, Energy, Environmental Protection, Agriculture and the Interior (yes, that one). The entire book operates under the presumption that 1) policy will be "driven by inclusion," at the White House (something that Bush, who has been accused of outsourcing policy to agencies, didn't mimic) and that, according to co-editor and senior fellow Michelle Jolin, 2) agency heads will need advice "on day one, in the first 100 days, in the first year and in the long term."
"Change" offers that advice. And in that vein, each of the sections dealing with the green stuff emphasizes that at both the first instant and in the very long term, smart growth, national security and sustainable environmental practices are one and the same. Mark Green cautioned that “Change for America is not a catechism, it’s a menu.” But here's one provocative new mission statement for the suggested "NEC":
The president-elect should nominate the new energy team early, shortly after the national security team and the economc team, signaling the importance of this issue. This new team would form the core of a new White House National Energy Council, which would inclue the secretaries of most cabinet agencies and the heads of the Council on Environmental Qualty, the National Economic Council, and the National Security Council, and would be led by a national energy adviser with stature comparable to the national security adviser and the national economic adviser. [My emphasis]
Whoa. That would surely make a statement--let the jockeying begin! The book also boasts an entire section near and dear to my heart, penned by CAP senior fellows Bracken Hendricks and Van Jones, entitled "Building a Vibrant Low-Carbon Economy." Here they yoke together many of the recommendations from other chapters, and provide a kind of philosophical canopy for a sane approach to our relationship with the planet--involving civil engineering, national regulatory standards, and a return to "middle-skill" manufacturing jobs as an economic engine. Much, as usual, depends on the sale:
The 44th president will need to galvanize new constituencies for action, including labor, business, urban, farm, civil rights, and other stakeholders. By having a clear message on the economic benefits of action for the poor and middle class, for ratepayers and small businesses, the new administration will be able to answer predictable attacks based on costs, as businesses and markets adjust....The power of the Oval office to convene industry and interest groups to create a national consensus for action should not be underestimated.
It might also fall to a new "NEC" head.
UPDATE: Al Gore takes himself out of the running for such a position.