Republican and Democratic presidential candidates alike may be touting a greener future, but that doesn't mean a new head of state will be able to usher in climate-change-fighting legislation, said Dan Reicher, director of climate and energy initiatives for Google.org.
Reicher, who spoke at the Clean-Tech Investor Summit in Palm Springs, Calif., on Wednesday, isn't just pontificating from his experience working to help the search giant's philanthropic arm with its initiative to bring the price of renewable electricity below the price of coal (see Googling Greentech). He also is the former U.S. assistant energy secretary.
And he does think the presidential frontrunners Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain will push for such change, but that it will be more difficult than many voters might expect.
"The complexity around adopting climate legislation is phenomenal," he said.
Reicher added that it's unlikely the country will see such a policy this year and that he's also unsure it will happen by next January, when the newly elected president takes office. "President Bush is not going to sign a piece of climate legislation," he said. "And it's doubtful that we will see one agreed to by the House and Senate."
The United States hasn't exactly been leading the charge in legislation to cut greenhouse-gas emissions. Aside from not signing the Kyoto Protocol, the country took criticism in December, when representatives from more than 180 countries got together in Bali to outline two years worth of negotiations to adopt a treaty that will succeed Kyoto.
Among the sticking points had been the United States' refusal to sign a nonbinding goal for developed countries to lower their emissions 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 (see Bali Summit Yields Plans to Plan).
But even if the United States gets a president and a political body more inclined to move on climate-change legislation, it will take some time before any regulation is written and phased in, Reicher warned.
Still, the country need not wait for legislation to see change.
"I do think nearer-term energy legislation is going to see some real life in 2008," Reicher said, pointing to such possibilities as the extension of renewable tax incentives, which are set to expire at the end of this year.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate fell one vote short to call for a vote on a bill that would have extended the tax incentives for a year (see Renewable Tax Incentive Still At Risk).
He also thinks 2009 could bring a dramatic increase in support from Congress for R&D and more favorable approaches to clean-energy incentives.
"I think you are going to see two parallel paths," Reicher said. "One taking longer, but eventually getting there. The other, in the near term, pushing through some important energy-related legislation that I think could be very, very helpful."