Sen. Mark Begich added a light touch about energy legislation at just the right time.
"There has been some progress made," National Journal Energy and Environment writer Amy Harder said optimistically at Wednesday's National Journal policy summit at the Newseum.
"What would that be?" joked the Alaska Democrat.
All kidding aside, there is a lot of doubt that energy legislation will make it out alive before this Congress ends. Despite skepticism from their colleagues and much of the world, Begich and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan, were still optimistic when they spoke at the event.
"Let's put something on the table," Begich said. "Otherwise, we'll be sitting here in a couple years talking about why we don't have an energy policy."
Both senators said that getting some momentum on energy legislation can go a long way, even if it means taking small steps.
"It's a lot easier to get 60 percent of 100 than 100 percent of 60," Brownback said, noting that passing an Renewable Electricity Standard in the lame-duck session is "still doable."
"Why do we have to go to the partisan corners on this?" Brownback said. "I think it's possible to do."
In a bipartisan effort, Brownback and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman introduced a bill last week that would require utilities to produce 15 percent of the nation's energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar and biomass by 2021.
On Tuesday, however, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said that he could not support their RES bill and instead introduced a clean-energy standard bill. His expanded measure would include nuclear and "clean coal" technology as part of the mix.
While both Begich and Brownback said Graham's bill needed to be broadened, Bingaman is opposed to making changes in it. "You don't want to be too dogmatic about anything in Congress if you want to get something passed" said Bob Simon, Bingaman's committee staff director, who also spoke at Wednesday's event.
Other experts sounded off on energy legislation and its urgency as well, agreeing that Congress should take advantage of this opportunity while it is still on the table.
"We need to stop jumping from silver bullet to silver bullet and set some real goals" said David Friedman, research director for the Union of Concerned Scientists. "What we need to do is get going."