“You had Gov. Arnold Schwartzenegger stumping around the state calling them dirty, greedy oil companies,” said Roosevelt in the interview, and George Shultz, the respected Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, who cochaired the “No on 23” campaign, reached out to business to stop it rather than support it and made the case that dependence on oil is a national security issue.

Roosevelt said that making the bipartisan climate and environment case nationally to Republicans in Congress and elsewhere is made harder by strong ties to the oil and gas industries fighting greenhouse-gas regulation, while the clean energy, high-industries are more powerful in California. Roosevelt’s story quoted Shultz at Wednesday’s victory press conference: “What do we need to do with this victory? We need to wake up our fellow Republicans.” But Prop 23 advocate Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, predictably warned that implementing the climate law “will result in the relocation of jobs and businesses from California to other states and other countries,” moving carbon emissions from one location to another but not reducing them.

While an exhausted Roosevelt planned a post-election Thursday morning hike in Dixie Canyon near her home, she was already thinking about the next big story on the horizon: the first steps in implementing the California climate law. A draft has just come out of proposed state cap-and-trade regulations that are due to be finalized early in 2011. “They are immensely complex. We’re now getting into the nitty-gritty of implementing this law,” she said. We’re also getting into the nitty-gritty of the extent to which California’s support of its climate law will, or will not, have national repercussions.

On Wednesday, a New York Times editorial argued that, “California has been far ahead of the rest of the country on environmental issues. And it long ago cast its economic future with high-tech industries. But politicians in Washington — who have made no progress on climate change and clean energy — should take a lesson from the pro-AB 32 [California’s 2006 climate law] campaign.” Whether or not they will is an open question.

What the Future Holds

Despite the fairly robust conclusion that the GOP’s electoral gains were not, overall, a referendum against the 2009 House climate bill, the Obama administration seem to have taken them as such. On Wednesday, Obama told a press conference that, “Cap-and-trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way. I’m going to be looking for other means to address this problem.”

That prompted The Associated Press to dispatch an article headlined, “Obama Drops Plan to Limit Global Warming Gases,” which got widespread pickup. Obama had, in fact, already signaled a significant shift in energy policy before the election when he told National Journal that he would be handling it in “bite-sized pieces,” or “chunks,” as phrased it an interview with Rolling Stone. The chunks that he highlighted on Wednesday - nuclear power, natural gas, and electric cars - are places where the administration sees potential for bipartisan agreement and represent, as an editorial in The Christian Science Monitor put it, “need to focus more on energy and less on climate.”

Indeed, the Houston Chronicle reported, “Republicans have made clear they will emphasize traditional energy sources during the next two years,” and a second editorial in the Monitor argued that energy policy could end up being a “happy medium between Obama and Republicans.”

“Happy” might not be the best word to describe any potential deals, however. Nor might “compromise.” Few reporters, unfortunately, have noted that Obama did not even mention renewable energy on Wednesday. The Monitor’s editorial reflected this, bringing up solar and wind energy at the very end and only briefly.

Curtis Brainard and Cristine Russell are CJR contributors. Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, our online critique of science and environment reporting. Russell, a CJR contributing editor, is the president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing and a senior fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. She is a former Shorenstein Center fellow and Washington Post reporter.