Thursday :: Jun 14, 2007

Up The Ante On The Energy Bill

by Steve

Just a while ago, Senate Republicans used the filibuster tactic again to stop Democrats from requiring energy companies to produce a measly 15% of their power from renewable sources by 2020. Republicans are blocking the bill until Democrats agree to allow energy companies to meet these requirements through nuclear power or through conservation offsets. Democrats failed to get 60 votes to move the bill forward.

There is room to maneuver for the Democrats here. They can either stop this bill and spend the next 18 months blasting the GOP for opposing renewable power sources and for shilling for the nuclear industry, or they can use the public support for energy independence and stopping global warming to get whatever strong bill they can get now, and then come back in 2009 to make it even better.

There are major fights with the bill that Democrats can exploit:

Automobile fuel efficiency

It also became increasingly clear Thursday that there will be a tough fight over automobile fuel economy as a group of senators close to the auto industry unveiled their alternative proposal, which — unlike a measure already in the energy bill — they say automakers can achieve.
The substitute calls for increasing auto fuel economy by 30 percent to 36 miles per gallon by 2022 and for SUVs and small trucks to reach 30 mpg by 2025. "It will force industry to bend and not break," Sen. Kit Bond, D-Mo., said. Currently in the bill: a more stringent fuel economy increase that the auto industry strongly opposes, to 35 mpg for both cars, SUVs and trucks by 2020 and 4 percent higher each year after that.

Natural gas production

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., prompted a sharp floor debate Thursday when he proposed allowing natural gas development in waters along the Atlantic coast where a drilling freeze has been in place for a quarter-century.
Warner, R-Va., wants the Senate to let his state seek a waiver from the Interior Department to the freeze. The plan brought a quick responses from senators from other coastal states.
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said such drilling off Virginia "could cause a ripple effect ... and the consequences can be very significant." He added, "This would leave other states helpless.


On the GOP demands to allow energy suppliers to meet their renewable energy targets through conservation and nuclear power, what about upping the ante by allowing nuclear power and conservation offsets, but only if the requirement is bumped up from 15% to 20% by 2020 with an Apollo-type commitment towards solar and wind power development, like they have already done in Europe? And let's allow nuclear only if existing nuclear industry subsidies are dumped in favor of government subsidies and incentives for the development of "good" nuclear power using transmutation and integral fast reactors.

On the auto industry opposition to hitting a corporate average fuel economy standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2020 for all cars, we already know that Toyota and Honda will hit this target years ahead of Detroit and that the market will penalize Detroit for their resistance. But if Detroit insists that cars and trucks/SUVs be treated differently, then why not up the ante and demand that cars hit 36 miles per gallon and trucks/SUVs hit 30 by 2020?

On the natural gas drilling issue, we have plenty of it offshore. Democrats should work with Warner to allow the states to pursue waivers if their constituencies support such exploration, in exchange for his support on the Apollo-type initiative on renewables.

A grand bargain is needed now, one that can be built upon when more Democrats are elected in 2008. Insisting on a serious commitment to renewables and conservation now as the price for nuclear and natural gas development and a real CAFÉ standard, while dumping the gas/oil subsidies to fund the Apollo-type initiative is the way to go.

Steve :: 4:39 PM :: Comments (18) :: Digg It!