Senate Momentum Builds for Clean Energy and Jobs, But Not Climate

The bill offered by Senators Jeff Bingaman and Sam Brownback is just one splinter of the comprehensive climate package that President Obama promoted at the outset of his term.

US-Senate-SealCall it climate-lite.

The renewable electricity standard introduced in the Senate is a key element in most sprawling measures to address climate change. It’s designed to rev up renewable electricity — 15 percent by 2021, including efficiency — resulting in less fossil fuel use and fewer emissions. That would help utilities cut their carbon output to comply with an emissions cap — if Congress ever enacts one.

Yet the bill offered by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) is just one splinter of the comprehensive climate package, the one that included a carbon price, that President Obama promoted at the outset of his term.

The narrow measure would cut emissions, but not with the force of cap and trade, while establishing a national market for renewable energy credits and the nation’s first long-term commitment to power made from sources like wind and solar facilities.

“I believe an RES will have a greater impact on economic growth than it will on carbon reductions in the short run,” said Daniel Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “This would provide a lot more certainty for investors.”

That can be good for jobs — and Democrats as they enter midterm elections tainted by recession economics and attacks on their “cap and tax” plan. The RES, even a weak one, as Bingaman’s is widely described, can earn the trust of investors that the United States will be dedicated to clean energy for a long time, supporters say. Other efforts, like the production tax credit, have come and gone, and the notion that the Democratic Congress would deliver a climate bill promoting renewable energy has evaporated.

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Source: Evan Lehmann | The New York Times
Photo: U.S. Senate