Schumer Eyes Energy Bill as Democrats Warm to More Bipartisan ‘Clean’ Standard

Energy legislation may come up quickly in the chamber following President Obama’s call for bipartisan action.

US-Senate-SealSen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a top strategist for Senate Democrats, said that energy legislation may come up quickly in the chamber — comments that follow President Obama’s call for bipartisan action to greatly expand low-carbon power generation.

Obama’s State of the Union speech called for generating 80 percent of the nation’s power by 2035 from “clean” sources, including renewables, nuclear power, “clean coal” and natural gas.

Schumer, the vice-chairman of the Senate Democratic conference, called the proposal “great” and said energy legislation is on the agenda.

“I think that is a very likely thing that will come up rather soon,” he told reporters in the Capitol after Obama’s speech. “There is good grounds for an energy bill and there is good hope for some bipartisan cooperation on it.”

Obama’s proposal – which was broadly worded and steered clear of specifics – won cheers from several other Democrats. But there were early indications of skepticism from senior Republicans Tuesday night.

The Democratic applause shows that liberals are willing to embrace a standard that credits sources like nuclear power and natural gas, even though a more narrowly tailored renewable electricity standard has long been a pillar of Democratic and green group energy plans.

“I think what’s good is, because he went to a clean energy standard rather than a renewable energy standard, it brings in many more people. I think that’s going to generate a lot of support,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the liberal chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said a “clean” standard would be part of energy bills that emerge in the Senate this year. Kerry – along with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) – tried to win traction last year for a more sweeping climate change and energy bill but it did not come up for a Senate vote.

Obama’s speech omitted any specific mention of greenhouse gases or climate change, and emissions-capping proposals are dead for now on Capitol Hill. Kerry told reporters that a climate bill isn’t in the cards in this Congress but said he sees backing for energy legislation.

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Source: Ben Geman and Andrew Restuccia | The Hill
Photo: U.S. Senate