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On Cap-and-Trade, a Risk Worth Taking

But another factor is changing the political calculus: the rise of a substantial alternative-energy business that encompasses wind and solar. For the first time, the political meaning of the word "energy" is not confined to oil and gas, even if old energy is still far more connected politically.

Among the employers in Markey's district are Vestas, a leading supplier of wind power, and Abound Solar, a spinoff of research at Colorado State University that manufactures photovoltaic panels.

Markey adds that a large swath of her district is one of the most promising parts of the country for producing wind energy, and "this bill really helps our eastern plains."

Underscoring the dawn of a new energy politics were the eight Republican votes cast in favor of the bill, notably those of Mark Kirk of Illinois and Mike Castle of Delaware. Both are considering campaigns for the U.S. Senate next year, and they may see a future that others in their party don't.

Still, for many potentially vulnerable Democrats who backed the bill, there will be short-run political pain. Perriello and Markey were among 14 House members targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee for their votes. In Perriello's case, a tough television ad predicts huge increases in electricity prices.

Perriello is philosophical about the assault, though he says he's surprised that Republicans are "using information they know is fundamentally wrong." He plans to use the July 4th weekend in his district to talk about the urgency of energy independence and the potential for renewable-energy jobs. Perriello's fate will be a test of just how new our politics have become.

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