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Reid: Energy Bill Pushed to Lame-Duck Session

Is this duck lame enough for you? (photo: Thomas Hawk on Flickr)

A narrow energy bill which Harry Reid scaled back from earlier, more grandiose ambitions is likely to be pushed back until after the midterm elections, said the Senate Majority Leader on a conference call today. However, he did offer renewed hope, for the first time in a while, that the bill could include a renewable energy standard, mandating a percentage of electricity to be generated from renewable sources.

On the call, scheduled in advance of the third annual Clean Energy Summit on September 7 in Las Vegas, Reid went over the history of the energy bill, which initially was a comprehensive plan from John Kerry and others, including a cap and trade system for carbon emissions. “We originally tried to do a bill that John Kerry worked on for 8 or 9 months,” Reid said, but at the end of the process, Kerry and his colleagues found themselves unable to attract Republican support. “We had to step back with something more modest… a more compact bill.” The bill that Reid unveiled before the August recess includes the Home Star energy retrofits for residential properties, inducements for natural gas and electric vehicles, particularly in the trucking fleets, to reduce dependence on oil, and increased money for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which can go toward any number of land use projects.

Reid said that, while he hoped to keep working on the bill in the period between now and the midterms, “we’re bound to come back in a lame duck session… Maybe after the elections we can get some help from Republicans on these key issues.”

Republicans have already started demanding that nothing of consequence get passed in the lame duck, a drumbeat which would undoubtedly grow louder if they happened to win one or both houses of Congress.

Reid described the current recess as a “time-out period” for the energy bill, to see if enough Senators can come together and pass it before the end of the year. He did offer a glimmer of hope on one piece that concerns environmentalists, however. Asked if the bill could still include a renewable energy standard, Reid said that two GOP Senators have expressed an interest in such a standard, and he would be talking to them next week. I know that Sam Brownback is one of those two; not sure yet on the other.

Of course, Brownback pushed an RES from the Natural Resources Committee version of the bill, which was a painfully weak 15% by 2021. Even Natural Resources Committee Chair Jeff Bingaman thinks that’s too low, and wants to raise it to 20%.

On the prospects of a carbon cap, Reid wasn’t as charitable. “It doesn’t appear so at this stage. It doesn’t have the traction that we wish it has.”

UPDATE: There’s also substantial question about the GOP conception of what gets included in a “renewable energy standard,” including things like nuclear and so-called “clean coal” technology.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Reid: Energy Bill Pushed to Lame-Duck Session

A narrow energy bill which Harry Reid scaled back from earlier, more grandiose ambitions is likely to be pushed back until after the midterm elections, said the Senate Majority Leader on a conference call today. However, he did offer renewed hope, for the first time in a while, that the bill could include a renewable energy standard, mandating a percentage of electricity to be generated from renewable sources.

On the call, scheduled in advance of the third annual Clean Energy Summit on September 7 in Las Vegas, Reid went over the history of the energy bill, which initially was a comprehensive plan from John Kerry and others, including a cap and trade system for carbon emissions. “We originally tried to do a bill that John Kerry worked on for 8 or 9 months,” Reid said, but at the end of the process, Kerry and his colleagues found themselves unable to attract Republican support. “We had to step back with something more modest… a more compact bill.” The bill that Reid unveiled before the August recess includes the Home Star energy retrofits for residential properties, inducements for natural gas and electric vehicles, particularly in the trucking fleets, to reduce dependence on oil, and increased money for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which can go toward any number of land use projects.

Reid said that, while he hoped to keep working on the bill in the period between now and the midterms, “we’re bound to come back in a lame duck session… Maybe after the elections we can get some help from Republicans on these key issues.”

Republicans have already started demanding that nothing of consequence get passed in the lame duck, a drumbeat which would undoubtedly grow louder if they happened to win one or both houses of Congress.

Reid described the current recess as a “time-out period” for the energy bill, to see if enough Senators can come together and pass it before the end of the year. He did offer a glimmer of hope on one piece that concerns environmentalists, however. Asked if the bill could still include a renewable energy standard, Reid said that two GOP Senators have expressed an interest in such a standard, and he would be talking to them next week. I know that Sam Brownback is one of those two; not sure yet on the other.

Of course, Brownback pushed an RES from the Natural Resources Committee version of the bill, which was a painfully weak 15% by 2021. Even Natural Resources Committee Chair Jeff Bingaman thinks that’s too low, and wants to raise it to 20%.

On the prospects of a carbon cap, Reid wasn’t as charitable. “It doesn’t appear so at this stage. It doesn’t have the traction that we wish it has.”

UPDATE: There’s also substantial question about the GOP conception of what gets included in a “renewable energy standard,” including things like nuclear and so-called “clean coal” technology.

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David Dayen

David Dayen