U.S. Senators Push for Renewable Electricity Standard

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"Standalone RES has a good chance of being signed into law."

With the U.S. Congress having failed this year to pass comprehensive energy and climate-change legislation, a bipartisan group of senators will introduce a stand-alone bill Tuesday that would require electric utilities to generate a certain percentage of their power from wind, solar and other renewable energies.

New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman, the Democratic chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Monday he believes "the votes are present" in both the Senate and the House of to pass a renewable electricity standard (RES).

Bingaman's committee passed a sweeping energy bill in 2009 that contained an RES of 15% by 2021, but it has languished because leading Democrats in the Senate didn't bring the underlying energy bill to the floor.

Monday, Bingaman said a standalone RES—unlike a comprehensive energy bill—has a good chance of passing both chambers of Congress and being signed into law. "I think we need to get on with figuring out what we can pass and move forward," he said. Bingaman has scheduled a briefing for Tuesday afternoon to introduce the bill.

The House in 2009 passed a sweeping energy and climate bill that contained a 20% RES, but that bill was not considered in the Senate.

Political opposition to a nationwide RES has tended to be defined more by regional differences than party affiliation and, therefore, a Republican like Brownback will support the Bingaman bill.

Critics say a nationwide RES would penalize Midwestern and Southern states where wind and solar energy potential is lower than in other parts of the U.S., which would force them to buy electricity from states that have more renewable resources. There have also been debates in previous Congresses over whether nuclear energy should qualify as a "renewable" source of energy for the purposes of an RES.

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