With the successful passage of Universal Health Care, the debate on Capitol Hill has shifted to climate and renewable energy legislation. Several bills have been proposed in Congress that will include a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), such as H.R. 2454, which was passed by the House in 2009 and was posed to establish a 20% requirement on utilities by 2021. It was halted in the Senate partly due to objections from the coal industry and Midwest based utilities that claimed the legislation would dramatically increase electricity rates in the region. ((DesMoinesRegister. “Climate bill now a focus of Senate.” Website (http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20100402/BUSINESS/4020349/-1/SPORTS12/Climate-bill-now-a-focus-of-Senate).))

John Kerry, Lindsay Graham, and Joe Lieberman are collaborating on a compromise bill in the Senate that will be released on April 22, which is also Earth Day. The framework of this legislation includes the continued promotion of the nuclear and coal industries while regulating carbon emissions and aligning nationwide policies that promote energy independence. ((Memo to President Barack Obama from John Kerry, Joseph Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham. Link (http://thehill.com/images/stories/blogs/klg.climate.pdf).))

The recent move by President Obama to end the moratorium on certain offshore drilling sites in the Atlantic is a strategic concession that has upset some environmental activists but will ultimately improve the odds that this bill will be pushed through. The Obama Administration has publicly supported an RES of 25% by 2025, which the Union of Concerned Scientists suggests will create 297,000 clean energy jobs, generate $64.3 billion in consumer savings, and reduce CO2 emissions by 277 million metric tons per year. ((Union of Concerned Scientists. March, 2009. “A National Renewable Electricity Standard Will Boost the Economy and Protect the Environment”))

Simultaneously, executives from the wind industry are aggressively lobbying for a national RES that they argue will create jobs and protect the growth of their industry. Their recent activity is partly a backlash against the legislation introduced by Senator Chuck Schumer that would only provide subsidies for renewable projects that are 100% American made. ((Renewable Energy World. “Senate Proposal Could Hurt US Wind Industry”))

The collective is supported by the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, which in its “2010 Wind Energy Recommendations,” report that their goal of generating 20% of total domestic energy via wind power will only be achieved with support on a federal level. ((Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition. March, 2010. “2010 Wind Energy Recommendations”))

Public opinion of a national RES should be positive based on recent studies. One poll conducted by AmericanProgress.org in August 2008 found that Americans (in Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) by in large want to solve our energy problems with renewable energy, specifically by focusing on wind, solar, and biomass technologies as opposed to continuing our reliance on oil. ((AmericanProgress.org. Website (http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/07/renewables_not_drilling.html).))

In December 2009, the Washington Post / ABC News found that 65% of their sample population believes the government should regulate greenhouse gases and only 29% oppose. Even when adding the caveat that their monthly energy expenses will be increased by $25 a majority still maintained their support. ((The Washington Post. Website (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/postpoll_121509.html?sid=ST2009121800006).))

On a final note, the Environmental Protection Agency in conjunction with the Department of Transportation established a new fuel efficiency standard of 35.5 mpg for new cars and light truck models unveiled from 2012 through 2016. The unique aspect of this legislation is a nationwide CO2 emission standard of 250 grams per mile for these same vehicles, the first time car manufacturers have been pushed to reduce greenhouse gases. ((Environmental Protection Agency. “EPA and NHTSA Finalize Historic National Program to Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Improve Fuel Economy for Cars and Trucks”))

The approval of this nationwide proposal suggests that it’s only a matter of time before a national RES is implemented.

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