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Energy Bill: Main Components Include Renewable Standard, Oil Spill Response

Andrew Restuccia, the new environment and energy reporter for the Washington Independent, has the scoop on the probable component parts of the Senate’s energy and climate bill. Basically, we’re looking at two main parts: a response to the BP oil spill and a renewable electricity standard. A cap on carbon emissions, even a utility-only cap, does not make an appearance.

“help expedite cleanup of and recovery from the oil in the Gulf of Mexico, ensure that the polluters are held liable for damages caused, and put better systems in place to regulate deepwater drilling.

“create jobs and save consumers money through residential and commercial renovation incentives and by setting higher energy efficiency standards for new homes, products and appliances.

“set a national renewable electricity standard and provide new financing options for clean energy investments, including low-carbon power generation.

“improve the nation’s electricity grid and make it more likely that remotely generated renewable power will get to market.

“decrease oil consumption by several million barrels per day and help electrify the transportation sector, as well as convert heavy duty fleets to cleaner fuels like natural gas

“eliminate major oil and gas subsidies and expand and extend incentives for consumers and businesses that want to invest in energy efficient buildings, clean power, alternative fuel vehicles, and domestically produced biofuels”

Some of these pieces come from Jeff Merkley’s oil-reduction bill, some from Richard Lugar’s efficiency/renewables bill. But the bulk of this comes from Jeff Bingaman’s ACELA bill, which passed the Natural Resources Committee last year. As you may know from reading me or David Roberts, that’s a terrible bill.

No. It’s important to state this bluntly: ACELA sucks. As a standalone bill, it does virtually nothing for renewables, boosts efficiency a middling amount, and dumps a bonanza of subsidies on offshore drilling, nuclear power, tar sands, oil shale, and natural gas. It also weakens the Renewable Fuel Standard. It’s a minor deviation from the awful energy status quo and would be a depressing end indeed to the year-long Obama-era effort to finally address America’s energy problems.

So unless the bill takes the framework of ACELA and really improves it with some of the Merkley and Lugar provisions, it’s not only grossly insufficient to the task of mitigating climate change, it’s insufficient on its own terms and completely not worth passing.

There is a bill out of the above items that could make sense. An aggressive renewable energy standard would keep pace with countries like Germany, who announced their intention to get all their electricity from renewable sources by 2050. Electrifying the transportation sector, in combination with a good RES and solid energy efficiency targets, would reduce fossil fuel needs dramatically. Probably not dramatically enough to lower carbon emissions to the levels scientists deem necessary, but a significant amount.

Harry Reid really holds the key to what will end up in the bill. His spokesman Jim Manley said there would be an answer on that by the end of the week. Manley also said the renewable standard would sit at the center of the bill.

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David Dayen

David Dayen