Rarely have I enjoyed the opportunity to praise the Obama administration, and I would hardly have thought the chance would present itself in the context of environmentalism and energy policy. However, Obama "seized a key Republican energy initiative as his own Tuesday, promising $8.33 billion in federal loan guarantees for a pair of Georgia [nuclear] reactors."
The nuclear initiative serves the president's agenda on a number of fronts, from climate-change and clean-energy to job-creation and lessening U.S. dependency on foreign oil. Further, it is a practical compromise on Obama's part. Having achieved little to nothing of his presidential agenda by way of unilateral force, Obama realizes that he needs to pass something - anything - before the November elections. A bipartisan compromise offering talking points on jobs, national security and energy is a blessing.
Of course, the devil's in the details. Obama can still wreck the proposal by refusing to loosen burdensome regulations which have stalled the nuclear industry for 30 years. Government loans are only necessary because government regulations make nuclear energy unprofitable - Obama's gesture will prove just another fiscal black hole unless the industry is untethered from environmental oppression. This will infuriate the left - but that might serve Obama's interests among moderates.
Republicans would be wise to seize on this gesture and ensure voters that they are happy to compromise on reasonable, bipartisan legislation. But they must restrain Obama's inevitable impulse toward liberal excesses, which will appear in the form of cap-and-trade proposals to accompany the nuclear initiative. Supporting nuclear energy while opposing cap-and-trade as an environmental tax hike, Republicans can emerge as both bipartisan and fiscally responsible.
But that's a price Obama should be willing to pay for a demonstrable accomplishment at this point. If he'd taken this approach with health-care, he would likely be touting a Clintonesque, bipartisan victory (however partial, from his perspective) rather than the humiliating and self-destructive defeat which he orchestrated.