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Thwarted Bingaman Still Eyeing Clean Energy Standard in Next Congress

“The renewable electricity standard has been around for many Congresses,” his spokesman said. “We’ll certainly revisit it.”

By Elizabeth McGowan

Dec 23, 2010

“Particularly galling,” Bingaman said, “is that this obstruction occurred in a year that saw the worst environmental disaster in the history of this nation, one that resulted from our overdependence on fossil fuels.”

“Clean Coal,” Nuclear in Future National RES?

Once again, Congress seems to have thwarted Bingaman’s attempts to encourage growth in the wind, solar and other renewables sector via an all-encompassing renewable electricity standard. Agenda-setter and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada evidently decided the Renewable Electricity Promotion Act of 2010 didn’t have enough votes to pass.

In a nutshell, the bipartisan bill Bingaman introduced with outgoing Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, in September would have required utilities to deliver 15 percent of their power from renewables or by ramping up energy efficiency by 2021. The District of Columbia and 28 states, mostly in the Northeast, Midwest and far West, have already adopted varying degrees of individual renewable electricity standards.

As a renewable electricity standard is a piece of policy legislation, Wicker explained, it wasn’t a proper fit with the bill that extended the President George W. Bush tax cuts and incorporated other tax breaks to stimulate the economy.

“The renewable electricity standard has been around for many Congresses,” Wicker said. “We’ll certainly revisit it.”

One bone of contention for Bingaman is that Republicans are pushing to add nuclear power and “clean coal” to the list of qualifying renewables that covers wind, solar, ocean, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas, hydrokinetic, waste-to-energy and new hydropower at existing dams.

With the GOP gaining six seats during the November election, the Democratic caucus in the Senate will have just a 53-47 edge. And then there’s the Republican-majority House. The question is, how inclusive and flexible is Bingaman willing to be?

“My boss thinks it should include renewables only,” Wicker concluded. “But he’s also a pragmatic guy. And the face of the U.S. Senate is going to be changing next year.”

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