Congress Abandoning Obama Clean Energy Goals
Source: Associated Press, H. Josef Hebert (6/10/09)
"To gain wider congressional support, the proposals have been whittled back."
Both the House and Senate are considering legislation that would establish the first national requirement for electric utilities to generate a certain percentage of their power from renewable energy—from wind turbines and solar cells to biomass and geothermal sources.
To gain wider congressional support, the proposals have been whittled back. They now pale in comparison to what Obama repeatedly has maintained is feasible and necessary to shift the nation away from coal and other fossil fuels and to clean energy sources. This shift, he argues, is needed to combat climate change and make the nation more energy independent.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is expected on Thursday to approve energy measures that call for 15% of the country's power to come from renewable sources by 2021. A huge climate bill, likely to be considered in the coming weeks in the House, would require 20% renewable energy use by 2020.
Nothing near that amount will actually be achieved by the mandate—or even required—because of compromises made to exempt some utilities and allow others to substitute efficiency improvements for a large chunk of the renewable energy requirement.
The bills before Congress would require a modest 3% to 6% renewable energy use by most utilities over the next three years. Currently, total U.S. renewable energy use for power generation is about 3%, not counting hydroelectric power.
Sponsors of the Senate and House renewable energy bills had wanted a more aggressive approach, but have had to accommodate a string of compromises to garner the needed support for passing any kind of national mandate.
"I urged the committee to adopt a stronger standard and we clearly didn't have the votes for that," says Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate energy panel. Bingaman, who wanted at least a 20% mandate, said he hopes the measure can be strengthened when it is considered by the full Senate.