In Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President, a work now in publication, two top members of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team recommend the creation of a “new National Energy Council to drive the transformation to a low-carbon economy.” The Wonk Room offers this exclusive preview of their recommendations. Todd Stern and David Hayes write:
Transforming the energy base of the economy will demand top-level participation across the executive branch. It will require the concerted engagement of the president, and the kind of single-minded attention that only a fully empowered national energy advisor and council can bring. The National Energy Council would serve as the new president’s agent in driving both policy and strategic options with respect to energy and climate change. At the first cabinet meeting, the president should make clear the centrality of this issue and the authority of his new national energy advisor.
The national energy advisor, an idea talked about in the press as a “climate czar” or “energy czar,” would have “stature comparable to the national security advisor and the national economic advisor.” Stern and Hayes recommend that the Council involve most of the Cabinet as well as the chairs of the National Security Council (NSC), National Economic Council (NEC), and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The advisor should have a “lean staff” shared with other White House offices, including the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Here’s how the council could be constructed:
The authors also make these specific recommendations:
Energy Innovation Council. Establish an interagency council “to develop an integrated, multiyear national energy research, development, and deployment strategy.” The authors note that “the federal government’s investment in energy R&D—around $2 billion last year—is woefully inadequate, only a third of what it spent 25 years ago. By contrast, the government spends $28 billion on medical research and $75 billion on military research.”
Energy Technology Corporation. Create a quasi-public entity “dedicated to managing large-scale energy demonstration projects in low- or no-carbon technologies.”
National Energy Conference and Advisory Council. In the first weeks of the administration, the president should create an “ongoing advisory council” and “convene a series of meetings with key players,” including “business and financial leaders, labor leaders, farmers, scientists, public health experts, national security experts, environmentalists, leaders from the faith community, and others.”
Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President is a framework produced by the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the New Democracy Project to help the next administration steer the government in a new, more progressive direction. Ten sample chapters are available online, and the print edition will be published in January 2009.
Todd Stern is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a partner at WilmerHale, was the senior White House negotiator at the Kyoto and Buenos Aires climate negotions as President Clinton’s staff secretary, and is now a member of Obama’s transition team. David Hayes, a partner at Latham & Watkins, is a former deputy secretary at the Department of Interior under Clinton. Hayes is managing the transition at the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy.
UPDATE: Gristmill‘s Kate Sheppard interviews Center for American Progress Action Fund fellows Dan Weiss and Kit Batten:
“There’s always tension between agencies, so this would help smooth that out,” said Weiss. “Look how well it worked under Clinton, where they had the National Economic Council help devise and implement his economic plan, and when it passed Congress, helped lead to eight years of pretty successful growth. Ideally that would be what would happen with a National Energy Council.”
How likely do the CAP folks think it is that their plan will see action?
“I think the likelihood is high … President-elect Obama’s been talking a lot about the central themes of energy in his administration, and so by creating a National Energy Council, we think that’s a great way to actually achieve the goal of being able to prioritize this issue across agencies and within the White House,” said Batten. “We’re hopeful that this policy recommendation would be adopted.”