Greenwire's Bush talks Clinton climate politics

What does Hillary Clinton's framing of climate and energy issues in her memoir "Hard Choices" foreshadow about how she may handle the politics of these issues if she decides to run for president in 2016? On today's The Cutting Edge, Greenwire reporter Daniel Bush gives the background on his coverage of the topic and talks about the developing dividing lines among potential 2016 candidates on climate and energy issues.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge, Clinton climate politics topping the E&E headlines this week. Greenwire's Dan Bush joins me with the background on his Hillary Clinton feature piece. Dan, Hillary Clinton's framing of climate and energy issues in her new book got a lot of attention, and it's gotten a lot of attention now that you've written this feature piece. Our E&E readers were all over it. What stood out to you in terms of what she did and didn't say?

Dan Bush: Well, what Clinton said on climate change was really not all that surprising. She revisited the Obama administration's efforts to help broker a greenhouse gas emissions deal at the convention in Copenhagen in 2009. That of course didn't produce a comprehensive agreement, and afterwards, Clinton writes in her book that she really concentrated on kind of smaller climate initiatives with an eye towards the next big talks in Paris in 2015.

And then on the domestic front, and we'll probably get into some of these issues, but she doesn't mention Keystone XL, for example, or fracking. On the one hand, she touts renewables, but also the current U.S. oil and gas boom, so she presents a kind of all-of-the-above energy platform that is really going to frustrate both critics on the left and right.

Monica Trauzzi: So what are folks who worked with her on these issues saying?

Dan Bush: Sure. Well, everybody that I spoke with on both sides of the aisle agreed that Clinton gets it. You know, she understands these issues. She's aware of the challenges, for example, in reducing emissions worldwide, while at the same time allowing for economic growth in developing countries like China or India or Brazil, where we're seeing some of those tensions play out with the World Cup right now.

And her former Senate colleagues said as well that she was invested on these issues during her time in the Senate. But as John McCain pointed out, she hasn't proposed a lot of sweeping reform, so I think people are taking a kind of wait-and-see attitude until she comes out with a more specific agenda.

Monica Trauzzi: And how do her views differ from those of some of the other potential 2016 candidates? I mean, are we already starting to see some clear dividing lines forming?

Dan Bush: The short answer is yes. I think the contrast couldn't be clearer. In fact, the parties are probably more divided than they were say in 2008, when McCain ran against then-Sen. Obama. You have Clinton on one side saying that she believes climate change is real, that it's caused by human activity, that we need to do something about it. On the other side, her opponents are saying essentially the opposite. You have New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has a pretty moderate position, but then everybody else in the likely Republican field, from Sen. Ted Cruz to Marco Rubio in Florida, have taken a very conservative position on this. They're betting essentially that it's not going to harm them at the polls in 2016, and they might be right, so it'll definitely be a point of contention.

Monica Trauzzi: The future of EPA's existing source rule could likely help shape the conversation that we see in 2016 on climate and energy. Could she potentially back-step from what the president is trying to do ...

Dan Bush: Right.

Monica Trauzzi: ... if that regulation is not entirely successful? I mean, has she left herself enough wiggle room?

Dan Bush: That's a very good question. This is I think a pretty tricky one for Clinton. She's embraced the rule in broad terms, and polls have showed that a good amount of Americans agree with her on that. But the issue remains very divisive politically, especially in energy-producing states say like Kentucky, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has used the rule to attack his Democratic opponent as well as President Obama.

So I think the key for Clinton is to embrace the proposal without giving it a real bear hug. And it's an approach that she took recently when she was asked about it at a forum in Colorado, and you know, look, she's been around for a long time. She knows how to do this. She's savvy politically. So I think that she's carved out as much wiggle room probably as she can get on this issue, but she's still going to have to walk a pretty tight line.

Monica Trauzzi: You mentioned Keystone at the top, and one theory on Keystone around Washington is that a decision was not made in 2011 so that Clinton wouldn't have her hands on it. In terms of what she says in the book, she stays away from Keystone. What do you make of the lack of any talking about the pipeline?

Dan Bush: Right. You know, it's a smart political move on her part. It's what somebody like her has to do in her position. She -- the start of the pipeline review happened under her watch at State. She said famously in 2010 that the government was interested or inclined in approving the project. That caused a firestorm on the left, as you can imagine. But after Clinton -- after Obama, excuse me, as you said, postponed a final decision on Keystone until after his re-election, it kind of took some of the heat off of Hillary, and since then, as the issue has become more and more controversial, she's really tried to distance herself from it as much as possible, which is why she didn't mention it in her book.

So unless something dramatically changes, I think that we're going to see her continue to take that tack in the months ahead, as she weighs a second run at the White House.

Monica Trauzzi: All right. Interesting stuff. Thanks for coming on the show, Dan.

Dan Bush: Thanks for having me.

Monica Trauzzi: More Cutting Edge coming next Friday. We'll see you then.

[End of Audio]



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