Carol Browner: The Quarterback of U.S. Climate Change Regulation

carolbrownerimageThere’s been a lot of people wondering how much authority Obama’s energy czar Carol Browner would wield. The administration created the new role to coordinate climate change and energy issues across divisions. Well, if comments from Congressman Edward Markey at an MIT conference on energy policy this morning are on the money, Browner will be acting as a sort of quarterback for the U.S. climate change playbook.

Browner, who headed up the Environmental Protection Agency under Bill Clinton, said herself in a speech this morning that the administration has been adding an increasing amount of divisions to her climate change policy coordination since her position was created. She said that she and President Obama thought maybe five or six agencies would fall under her coordination when he created the position, but since then they have added what seems like another agency every week.

Over the past few months Browner has put getting funds for energy efficiency, clean power and the smart grid into the stimulus package and the budget on top of her agenda. Next up, she’ll be working on ways to negotiate the upcoming energy bill. And in response to a question on whether the administration will try to use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases if the energy bill doesn’t pass, Browner said she’s optimistic that the energy bill will pass. In other words, the Clean Air Act is the insurance but she’s keeping her fingers crossed for a friendly agreement.

Browner’s stances have also helped lead the Obama team’s break from Bush administration policies — she’s called the Bush group “the worst environmental administration ever.” Markey said that days after Obama and Browner started work on climate change policy, he had a conversation about open standards of the smart grid that he wouldn’t have been able to have at any point in the last eight years.


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