Standard Arguments

Trading Carbon

April 2011

Is a clean energy standard the answer to greenhouse gas reduction policy in an era of divided government in the U.S.?

By Kyle Danish and Tomás Carbonell

Among the signature proposals unveiled in President Barack Obama's 25 January State of the Union address was an ambitious national objective.  He stated that by 2035, 80 percent of the country's electricity supply should derive from clean, low- or zero- carbon energy sources.  To achieve this target, the Obama administration endorsed the concept of a "clean energy standard", a policy approach that has rapidly gained currency in US policymaking circles over the last two years. 

With Senator Jeff Bingaman (Democrat-New Mexico) and key Republican senators expressing interest in developing legislation to establish a CES, the administration’s proposal may have breathed new life into the national debate over clean energy policy following the collapse of climate change legislation in the last session of Congress.

Although the passage of a CES proposal in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives appears doubtful, the CES is likely to become the focal point of Congressional debates over the next two years – and may serve as the cornerstone of a bipartisan compromise in a contentious area of policy.


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This article first appeared in the April 2011 issue of Trading Carbon magazine. For further information please visit

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