Micheal Levi says that Carol Browner’s departure from the White House isn’t the death knell for climate policy it’s widely being billed as:
First, do people really need more evidence that cap-and-trade is dead? The House is controlled by Republicans who ran against the policy. Case closed.Second, there is still a lot that could happen on energy and climate in the next two years. Policy on shale gas will have big consequences for U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Offshore drilling regulation is still far from being fleshed out. There may be opportunities for bipartisan cooperation on nuclear power. If gas prices jump this summer, the White House will be scrambling for initiatives that appear to respond to the situation. These may not be the things that excite Carol Browner, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t matter.
Third, and most important, don’t underestimate the degree to which this is personal. The oil spill owned Browner’s life for several months. That came on the tail end of a long and intensive effort to pass climate legislation. She must be exhausted. Add to that the very public rumors of her potential elevation to White House Deputy Chief of Staff, and the now very public decision to go with someone else, and it isn’t hard to see why she concluded that it was time to leave.
Levi says the question that should be on people’s minds isn’t “Why is she leaving?” but “Should she be replaced?”
My gut instinct is that she shouldn’t be. There are plenty of talented people … working on energy and climate. It isn’t clear to me that having an energy czar added all that much coherence to their work. The only real case for keeping the position would be if it’s necessary to attract a particularly good person to the White House staff. I’m skeptical, though, that that will happen.