MSNBC's Mitchell Cheerleads Cap and Trade; China Ahead of America on Solar Energy

After wondering on Friday if President Obama should help push energy legislation through Congress, MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell continued her cheerleading for a new energy agenda on Monday. On her afternoon show "Andrea Mitchell Reports," Mitchell downplayed the cost of last summer's Cap and Trade bill, and opined that solar energy should be a part of the American energy future.

"Ed Markey's bill–the Markey-Waxman bill–was a year ago, but it is a Cap and Trade bill, as you were pointing out," Mitchell said to guest Ron Brownstein of Atlantic Media. "It doesn't really require us to eat our spinach," she added.

Mitchell introduced the segment by referencing the Oval Office address that President Obama will be delivering Tuesday. "How hard will [President Obama]  press BP, and just how far will he go in proposing new energy legislation?" Mitchell asked.

After introducing Brownstein to the segment, Mitchell pitched the question she had asked of New York Magazine columnist John Heilemann on Friday: is now the time for sweeping energy legislation?

"Strong energy–almost certainly the time to pitch it," Brownstein answered. He added that it is not certain whether a climate dimension will be included in the bill.

The two then discussed Brownstein's recent trip to China and his insights on the country's energy policy.

"China is by leaps-and-bounds going to lap us on solar," Mitchell asserted, and then added that it "should be an American initiative."

Brownstein was able to maintain that while China may be making advances in the alternative energy realm, the country is still heavily dependent on coal and thus continues to oppose international efforts to stop global warming.

Mitchell chimed in once more on China's alternative energy record, "It's extraordinary, and we are falling way, way behind."

The transcript of the segment, which aired on June 14 at 1:16 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

ANDREA MITCHELL: When President Obama addresses the nation tomorrow night, how hard will he press BP, and just how far will he go in proposing new energy legislation? Joining us is Ron Brownstein, political director for the Atlantic Media, and someone who has studied energy more intensively than most of our other colleagues, so we welcome you as an expert on that as well. Let’s talk about–is this the time to pitch strong energy legislation and what are the chances of getting anything passed this year?

RON BROWNSTEIN, Political Director, Atlantic Media: You know, strong energy–almost certainly the time to pitch it. The hard part is going to be–as you were talking about with Congressman Markey, whether there is a climate dimension to that or not. I think from the beginning–right throughout his campaign, the Stimulus bill–the President has been a strong proponent of incentives to develop alternative energy, wind, solar, efficiency. They’ve always been somewhat ambivalent about whether it was politically realistic to couple that with a serious effort to control carbon emissions, which most advocates argue is the key to a long-term transition toward clean energy. But it imposes more immediate costs now than the carrots you can offer to develop things like solar. So I don’t know what we’ll see tomorrow. I assume that there will be something of a pitch there. But are they in the trenches, really telling Harry Reid, look, this has to be a comprehensive bill? It’s always been a little bit back-and-forth from the administration on that.  

ANDREA MITCHELL: And in fact, Ed Markey’s bill–the Markey-Waxman bill, was a year ago, but it is a Cap-and-Trade bill, as you’re pointing out. It doesn’t really require us to eat our spinach, and–

RON BROWNSTEIN: Well, it does have longer-term–I mean, the Waxman-Markey bill was a comprehensive bill that had a variety of incentives for alternatives, for efficiency, but also did have a Cap-and-Trade system which limited the emissions of Carbon Dioxide and the other gasses associated with Global Warming. That hits coal the hardest, harder than it does oil. It would have a big impact over time in moving the U.S. away from a reliance on coal to generate as much of its electricity. It’s impact on oil dependence might be smaller over time, but even that–because so many states rely so heavily on coal. It was always uncertain that you get the sixty votes in the Senate for that, and that’s been the delay. There’s been an entire year, as John Kerry and Lindsay Graham and Joe Lieberman and others have tried to find any formula that could get you to sixty votes in the Senate, while limiting carbon emissions. They’ve never found it, and now Harry Reid has to make this decision. Is this the moment to try to do it again, or do you do an energy-only bill, or maybe you can’t do anything.

ANDREA MITCHELL: As he’s of course facing his own re-election fight. You just got back from looking at the energy situation in China, and as Bill Gates, Jeff Immelt, last week–

RON BROWNSTEIN: Put out the report–

ANDREA MITCHELL: The CEO, of course, of our parent company GE put out their report on R&D, and Ed Markey has a lot of R&D in this bill that’s been sitting there for a year. You were in the Gobi Desert, where China–

RON BROWNSTEIN: Yes I was. You don’t get to say that everyday.

ANDREA MITCHELL: You know, what a great date line–China is by leaps and bounds going to lap us on solar, which should be an American initiative.

RON BROWNSTEIN: Right. China is a paradox. Because on one hand, they rely heavily on coal, and they’re a threat to any international effort to constrain Global Warming because of that. On the other hand, they have made enormous, specific goals in the area of alternative energy, solar, wind, high-speed rail, others–and they are becoming a serious competitor for those jobs that the President is counting on as a part of his long-term economic strategy. About half of the solar panels in the world are already built in China and Taiwan.

ANDREA MITCHELL: It’s extraordinary, and we are falling way, way behind. Thank you, Ron Brownstein, we are going to stay on this.
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014