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Klobuchar: Cap-and-trade This Year Hopeful, Not Certain.

One of the other speakers I saw at the Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference today was Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, who's as hilarious as advertised and, not surprisingly, very keen on the notion of green jobs. "We've even got a bed-and-breakfast up here in Minnesota where you visit, see some windmills, stay the night, wake up in the morning and see... more windmills." Among other things, she said she was stunned by how quickly green issues had gone mainstream—when she was first campaigning in 2006, she said, it was mostly college kids in "penguin buttons" raising the issue. And now, it seems like everyone in Minnesota wants to talk about jobs in the clean-tech industry. "It's no longer about Jimmy Carter sitting in a sweater looking glum," she said cheerily.

Shifting to more serious matters, Klobuchar touched on the topic of climate legislation, and said that she actually viewed last year's debate over the Boxer-Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill, which went down in defeat, as a "great stride." She argued that the bill garnered relatively few votes, in part, because everyone knew that Bush would've vetoed the thing, so "no one was really willing to put themselves on the line." "But now," she added, "we need to get it done." Once the current stimulus bill gets passed, Klobuchar expects the Senate to focus first on a national renewable-portfolio standard, requiring utilities to get 25 percent (or so) of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025—a provision that just barely got defeated last year, and something many states like Minnesota already do anyway. After that, it's cap-and-trade time.

Indeed, as with Barbara Boxer's announcement two days ago, Klobuchar predicted that the Environment and Public Works Committee would report a cap-and-trade bill to the full Senate "this year," and she hoped it could get passed in 2009, though that was less clear. Even if not, Klobuchar argued that, by the time the U.S. delegation (which she'll be part of) goes to Copenhagen for the international climate talks in December, Congress has to at least have "clear policies outlined." I think that's right—it's not crucial that we have a domestic carbon cap signed into law in order to make headway in negotiations to a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, but it should certainly be clear to all outsiders where Congress intends to move, and whether the Senate can credibly be expected to pass legislation.

--Bradford Plumer