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Comment: Congress must focus

The manifesto on which President Barack Obama came to power is facing an assault from all sides.

His climate change bill was due to be passed in an imprecisely defined period called autumn. Yet according to some Congress-watchers, we may now be lucky to see it before the leaves on the ground have been covered by snow. There remains a chance we may not see it at all. Obama's healthcare reforms have taken up nearly all available capacity, attention and political capital in Congress. The US lawmaking process has been mired and blown off course by protests and politicking.

It is imperative that Congress affords enough time to thoroughly debate the details of a climate change bill, and make the case to those in the President's own party who shy from accepting that well-honed legislation could improve the US economy, not hamper it (below). The President needs time to make the case that the green jobs he promised during that compelling election campaign last autumn are not illusory. Conservatives - from both parties - have already been successful at delaying Obama's public healthcare reforms. The right-wing grouping may score an additional success by derailing the climate bill.

It is crucial the regulations are tough enough. Already the form of the climate bill approved by Congress's House of Representatives has been made so mild that the US is likely to achieve its targets anyway, whether or not the world's biggest economy makes the drive for clean wind energy in the next decade. There are other concerns too. Across North America, the wind industry is waiting for Congress to finalise the bill as the legislation will dictate the market. As we explore this month, the US's neighbour and trading partner Canada - potentially an important exporter of wind energy - may well have to align its energy laws with those of the US in order to create a rational market. Meantime, layer upon layer of often conflicting state and regional energy legislation criss-cross North America, which allows wind producers to experiment with different systems, but ultimately causes dilapidating disharmony.

Obama has already been tested by a concerted campaign to knock his healthcare reforms off course. He may find history repeating itself when the time comes to revisit his climate change bill. Just as has happened with healthcare, there are already reports of vested interests mobilising rent-a-shout "Average Joes" to create a sense of grassroots opposition to the climate change bill. The President must remember what he promised when standing for office, and prevent another political gale blowing his ambitions away.

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