While many in Washington are focused on the miracle of actually seeing Republicans and Democrats mostly coming together on a budget deal, the big news in the energy and environment space is the return to the White House of John Podesta. His last stint was as Chief of Staff for President Bill Clinton so he is well connected and experienced.
Before he even started, he was quoted as "recusing" himself from opining on the Keystone Pipeline that he has opposed. The White House sent out a correction saying he hadn't really recused himself but since his opinion is known he doesn't really need to weigh in.
And this is true: John Podesta probably is and has been the most important opinion leader for progressives in America in the last decade, certainly during the term of the Obama Administration through his leadership of the Center of American Progress (CAP).
As the founder in 2003 of CAP, which characterizes itself as "an independent nonpartisan educational institute dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action... our work addresses 21st-century challenges such as energy, national security, economic growth and opportunity, immigration, education, and health care." They have been a vocal voice for this president's policies in the media and on the Hill. But their area of highest visibility is advocacy for a clean energy economy where John Podesta has personally led the effort. An op-ed he pinned in January of 2012 in The Wall Street Journal with Tom Steyer about their vision for energy policy in the U.S is instructive as to the leadership he will provide in the White House on energy and the environment.
Despite being a critic of the Keystone project, he has called upon the U.S. to "utilize our dramatically larger and cheaper natural-gas reserves," despite calls from some environmentalists to stop using the cleaner-burning fossil fuel right away. And CAP has within the last several weeks debated the pros and cons of the renewable fuels standard and whether it should be revisited.
With the president's climate agenda revolving around action by his administration to implement the agenda through the regulatory process and executive order, rather than Congress, he will be a powerful organizing force and leader in moving the ball forward. With the inability of Congress to act or work together on oversight, advantage goes to the Administration in getting action.
He is savvy, data-driven and results oriented. He will be a powerful influencer in this second term White House and one to watch.