With November elections approaching, national energy policy is moving to the forefront of the political agenda, and the contrasts between Republican and Democratic priorities couldn’t be more stark. While Pres. Obama and supportive Democratic Congressional representatives are intensifying their push for a long overdue overhaul of federal policy focused on clean energies that will be the key to future prosperity and quality of life, Republicans continue to pander to the interests of the oil, gas and coal industry by pushing for continued reliance on fossil fuels.
Shot down repeatedly in the past, a key piece of clean energy legislation–the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012– is nonetheless expected to be introduced in the Senate today, Thursday, March 1. New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is expected to announce the bill Thursday morning. Joining him will be Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.), as well as the president of the American Wind Energy Association and the executive director of the U.S. Clean Heat & Power Association, according to a news report from The Hill.
Linchpin for a proactive, forward-looking federal energy policy
The Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012 would require power utilities to generate 80% of national electricity supply from clean energy sources, such as solar energy, wind energy, geothermal and marine energy, by 2035. Enacting a Clean Electricity Standard would serve as a linchpin for a long awaited federal clean energy policy framework and action plan.
“The 24-page bill employs a straightforward, market-based approach that encourages a wide variety of clean electricity-generating technologies,” Bingaman’s office was quoted as saying in a Wednesday email to The Hill.
In a Jan. 31 speech at the open of the 112th Congress, Sen. Bingaman identified four key strategic elements of a strong, proactive clean energy policy framework:
- Consistent support for advanced research and development
- Ensuring robust domestic demand for clean energy
- Support for aggressive deployment, and
- Support for domestic manufacturing.
“We have to take seriously the marketplace reality that the high-wage, clean-energy manufacturing of the future will be located both close to demand and in countries with the most favorable clean energy policies. My desire is to see the United States lead the world in renewable energy manufacturing so all of the solar panels and wind turbines that we install around the country are not stamped ‘Made in China’ or ‘Made in Germany,’” Bingaman stated in his Jan. 31 speech.
“This is the key reason why I have long supported a Renewable Electricity Standard. We need to provide long-term market predictability for renewable electricity. Our on-again, off-again production tax credits are no match for the comprehensive approaches being put in place by our economic competitors.”
Despite support from some Congressional Republicans, the legislation is unlikely to be passed by Congress this year, according to The Hill. That’s not to say that the bill, or the issue of the need for a national clean energy policy and action plan, will fade away. On the contrary, clean energy versus continued support for and reliance on fossil fuels are sure to continue to be “hot button” issues right on through the November elections.