By Ben Geman - 09/04/12 05:34 PM EDT
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on Tuesday insisted there’s political space in the Senate to move ahead with bipartisan energy legislation.
Klobuchar said the ad hoc Senate “gang” that has sought a bipartisan sweet spot on energy in recent years should take another swing.
“I think we have to really reinvigorate those discussions again,” she said during an event on energy efficiency co-hosted by The Hill and Ingersoll Rand Co.
Conrad and Chambliss looked to revive the talks in the spring of 2011 but the effort didn’t take flight.
Despite the stumbles, Klobuchar said there’s space to build support for energy legislation. She noted that senators in both parties have offered support for a bill aimed at making energy use in building and manufacturing more efficient, which is sponsored by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).
The possibility of moving energy legislation is “not just some Pollyanna thing,” Klobuchar said at Tuesday’s event, which took place alongside the Democratic National Convention.
She noted the Senate has been able to move major legislation in this Congress, such as the farm bill and the transportation package.
Klobuchar also expressed hope that a broad energy measure could be seen as a fiscal plus.
“When you start seeing energy as a solution to the economy, then you start looking at it differently,” she said.
The “gang” — which reached 20 senators in 2008 — rolled out a broad plan that blended wider offshore drilling with major new investments and incentives around electric vehicles and biofuels, as well as measures to support nuclear power.
The 2008 plan called for raising billions of dollars to support green energy investments by repealing or limiting some oil-and-gas industry tax breaks.
At the same event Tuesday in Charlotte, retired Gen. Wesley Clark said the United States has failed to coalesce around a national energy strategy, and argued there’s powerful economic case for boosting the construction industry through energy-efficient buildings and alternative energy.
“We have a construction industry that is desperate for work. Forty percent of our energy goes into buildings, and a lot of it is wasted,” said Clark, the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004.
He said there are huge opportunities in “smart building.”
“For the future, instead of building a defense industry to protect us from the Soviet Union — which we did, that was our national strategy in the 1950s — instead of building a defense industry, we are going to focus on energy, we are going to make America the most energy-rich country in the world because we have got those resources in sun and wind here, and we are going to make America the most energy efficiency-conscious country in the world,” he said
Clark also called global warming a major security risk.
“It is a national security challenge, it is a huge economic challenge. It runs the gamut: disease, agriculture, rising insurance costs, displacement of populations to conflict, war, struggle and political strife across the globe,” he said. “It is accelerating.”