I mentioned last week that the “clean energy standard” proposed by President Obama in the State of the Union didn’t look like it had the support of interest groups on either side, or the support of the House. Nevertheless, the White House and Sen. Jeff Bingaman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee are hashing out a proposal.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is working with the White House to iron out the details of a broad proposal to require that 80 percent of the country’s electricity come from “clean” sources […]

Bingaman has been reluctant to endorse a so-called “clean energy standard,” instead underscoring his support for a “renewable electricity standard,” which focuses strictly on renewable energy.

But Bingaman’s remarks Monday suggest that he is willing to negotiate a broad energy standard that includes sources like nuclear and natural gas.

I don’t know why the Obama Administration thinks it’s 2009 again, and they can just negotiate with one Senator to realize their goals. Bingaman and the Administration are working on a proposal that can pass the Senate. What about one that can pass the House? Nancy Pelosi doesn’t run that place anymore, you may have heard. Designing something with Bingaman may neuter the veal pen enviro groups and get them to rally for the proposal, but I fail to see how that moves John Boehner.

Most Republicans aren’t interested in moving anything related to energy other than something blocking the EPA from its regulatory authority. Their extreme measures will make Jay Rockefeller’s bill to delay enforcement of EPA greenhouse gas provisions for two years look downright reasonable. I don’t see how a clean energy standard that can’t pass the House wedges its way into that debate.

And let’s stipulate that, substantively, a clean energy standard is a mess. The nuclear industry needs massive government subsidies to get construction off the ground, and even then they have difficulties. Natural gas is extracted using a hydraulic fracturing process that violates the Safe Drinking Water Act. “Clean coal” is a phrase rather than an actual thing.

Bingaman has some other ideas for the 112th Congress, including energy efficiency, alternative vehicles and oil spill response legislation. While these face similarly long odds, at least they have the facts on their side. In addition, the Obama Administration will submit a budget that cancels $4 billion in Big Oil tax subsidies. Again, I doubt it will work, but it’s something that’s worth promoting and showing your principles.

I don’t see how messaging a doomed and flawed clean energy proposal makes sense, in this context.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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