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Posted: January 28, 2010

Cap-and-trade needs a fresh approach

A battle might put the brakes on Colorado's new energy economy

Bart Taylor

The White House must be an uncomfortable place to be these days. And things will likely get worse for President Obama's team before they get better.

After Mr. Obama's State of the Union address, I'm guessing that both left and right are generally dissatisfied with the substance of the president's message and agenda.

With health-care reform on the ropes, a sure battle looming over the administration's financial reform bill, and Waxman-Markey, or cap-and-trade, up next on the legislative agenda, Mr. Obama should reconsider his legislative priorities. It's difficult to imagine a scenario today where Waxman-Markey would pass the Senate. Going oh-for-three on landmark legislation would be a disaster for the President.

A drawn-out battle over Waxman-Markey might also have a dampening effect on Colorado's new energy sector.

Many business leaders and public officials who support the current economic incentives for new energy development oppose cap-and-trade -- arguably, with good reason. Information available from global cap-and-trade markets has called into question whether the 2009 House bill was the right approach to support new U.S. energy development.

I happen to believe the new energy economy -- a term Gov. Bill Ritter coined -- might be the foundation of a new, dynamic U.S. manufacturing base. But a highly partisan debate over Waxman-Markey might have the opposite effect its sponsors seek, drowning out much of what's been accomplished and slowing enthusiasm for this ultra-important sector.

In the interest of progress and bipartisan solutions to the nation's pressing needs, Mr. Obama should reconsider his agenda and lead the business community toward a more agreeable framework to support the new energy economy.

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Bart Taylor is the publisher of ColoradoBiz magazine. E-mail him at btaylor@cobizmag.com.

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