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The energy bill that never was

The man behind the bill...Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)

On Thursday, July 22nd, Harry Reid and the rest of the Democratic leadership in the Senate announced that they would be abandoning the sweeping energy legislation that they had been working on for over a year.

It was a stinging defeat, because of all the effort put forth by environmentalists, as well as the bipartisan efforts by John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, and Lyndsey Graham to pass a good bill.  Many factors led to the defeat of energy legislation, such as the oil spill in New Orleans and partisan gridlock in Washington on the issue.  With that being said, little attention has been given to the energy bill put forward by Democratic New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman.

No matter what type of legislation is being debated, normally there are multiple bills coming from different committees, that are then melded into one piece of legislation in the end.  Though the media had given most of the attention to the Kerry-Lieberman-Graham bill, in my opinion, it was not one in which you could realistically expect to get enough Republican votes to pass.

Jeff Bingaman, who is the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee, passed legislation which received votes from 4 Republicans.  It was also co-authored by Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski.  The American Clean Energy Leadership Act(ACELA) would:

  • Only cap power-plants
  • Establish a renewable energy standard(RES), and establish a mandate that 15% of power nationwide must come from renewable sources by 2021
  • Put no cap on carbon emissions

This bill was a brilliant tactical move, because it eliminated the main point of contention(pricing on carbon) that Republicans and coal state Democrats had with supporting energy legislation, while at the same time including most of the objectives that we Democrats support in terms of energy reform.

Other aspects of the bill include:

  • Improving efficiency of energy production permitting, and working with the Interior Department in order to open more offices that dealt with the issue.
  • Increasing available financing to $30 billion to expand natural gas pipelines in Alaska.
  • Creating Clean Energy Deployment Administration(CEDA) to help spur investment environment of clean energy technology.
  • Allowing more production of renewable energy on public lands
  • Using incentives and financing to help small and large manufacturing companies become more efficient in their energy use
  • Ensures that consumer products (appliances, lights, etc) are made more efficiently
  • Increases building efficiency
  • Protects consumers from market manipulation, and gives the FERC power to regulate energy industries on behalf of consumers.

I hope that Senator Harry Reid rethinks his decision soon to table energy legislation all together.  The fact is that many politically vulnerable House members took tough votes to support energy legislation, and many are getting hammered in television ads by their opponents as we speak.  It can now be considered a wasted vote, due to Senate inaction on the issue.  It would be better off to pass the Bingaman energy bill, which has bipartisan support, and is clearly not as contentious as the cap and trade bill. We will see what happens.

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