While a bill proposed by Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman has received most of the climate change attention due to its controversial, if all but dead cap-and-trade provisions, a separate energy bill has been fumbling around Congress too. This bill, The American Clean Energy Leadership Act (ACELA), is, as per usual in Congress, widely regarded by the renewable energy industry as too weak and watered down to make much of a difference. However, it would at least set a national renewable electricity standard (RES) requiring U.S. utilities to get 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2021.
Alas, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who appears willing to gamble (and compromise) on other climate legislation this summer, has decided to shelve any hope for a national RES until fall…at the earliest. The renewable energy industry, especially a wind sector that has seen a significant drop in new installations this year compared to 2009, have been clamoring for RES legislation for some time. Recently, the industry came out in support of ACELA after initially opposing the bill.
The industry’s new view is that while the entirety of ACELA leaves plenty of room for improvement, a national RES is a provision that would at least have immediate and positive effects. However, a failure to pass such legislation is equally detrimental. Now, in the wake of Sen. Reid’s announcement, outrage has replaced reluctant acquiescence.
“A refusal to pass an RES is an attack on every American worker and consumer. Not passing an RES endangers at least 360,000 jobs: 85,000 currently employed in the wind industry and the potential 274,000 additional jobs created by an RES,” said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) in response to Harry Reid’s dismissal of the energy bill.
Indeed, the time to pass uniform national legislation promoting renewable energy is running out. The United States will soon fall too far behind the likes of China, India and Europe, which already have firm goals and plans in place.
35 states have passed their own energy mandates, and such measures carry fairly broad bipartisan support, including strong support from the public. Yet Congress will not move forward on any binding climate legislation for reasons, one can only assume, related to the corporate influence on Congress of non-renewable energy companies, which are afraid of rising costs, a reduced market for their carbon-emitting energy, the subsequent game of chicken being played by Republicans and the timidity of coal-state Democrats.
The fact that the renewable energy industry came out in favor of a bill they’d uniformly opposed until (what turned out to be) the eleventh hour is a sign of desperate times. Frustrated and increasingly insecure, the RE sector just wants something done, not to mention those of us with serious concerns about the effects of climate change and global warming. An RES would be a good first step, but one Harry Reid and cohorts are afraid to take.
Instead, Reid is hoping to capitalize on bad press created by the BP oil spill to get symbolic-at-best, progressive-constituency-placating legislation on the Senate floor. His bill would address offshore drilling regulation, as well as put a cap on carbon emissions from electric utilities–our largest polluters but still only about one-third of total U.S. emissions. And let’s face it, even weak legislation such as this is likely to die on that (hallowed or hollowed?) floor. It’s gotten so bad that Harry Reid won’t even utter phrases like “cap-and-trade” or “carbon tax.”
So now, in the midst of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, with a Democrat-controlled Congress, an eco-minded President and strong public support, we, as Americans, will get nothing done. Our Congress will continue to flatter and fawn over corporate interests and hem and haw when answering to the people. Our president will continue to speak loudly but carry a soft stick. And meanwhile, all of us face the most serious threat to humankind in our (admittedly short) history on Earth.
Even if you don’t believe in global warming or climate change, check out the air above Los Angeles or breathe deeply while walking alongside a freeway. Better yet, move into a home in a poor neighborhood within the vicinity of a power plant or other toxic site. Or step into a coal mine or coal plant. Or visit the Gulf of Mexico anytime in the next decade. Or research how so-called “clean” natural gas is extracted from the earth.
Why, members of Congress, go on with such energy sources when so many (obviously) better alternatives are waiting in the wings. Yes, they all–wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, wave/tidal, plug-in EVs, etc.–need further development, but YES THEY ALL NEED FURTHER DEVELOPMENT! Let’s get to it.
Dear Congress, while I understand that cap-and-trade is probably dead (I was never much of a fan of its convoluted, heavily loopholed structure anyway), please don’t kill all hope of a national renewable electricity standard.
So, see you in the fall…right?