Senate energy plan should include renewable energy standard

Gov. Bill Ritter lost no time in making known his problem with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s draft Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Accountability Act. On July 27, the same day Reid released a draft of his bill, Ritter joined Sen. Mark Udall to urge the Senate to include a renewable electricity standard in national energy legislation.

“I believe the federal government should take a page from Colorado’s playbook,” Udall said, referencing Colorado’s renewable energy standard,  “and I’m working with my colleagues to try to convince Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to include a strong national RES in the clean energy bill.”

“Colorado’s renewable energy standard is a proven and successful driver of our new energy economy,” Gov. Ritter said. “Colorado has become a hub for renewable energy manufacturing, research and production. Our renewable energy standard is helping to create tens of thousands of jobs, spur innovative technologies, and establish Colorado as a clean-energy leader nationally and internationally.”

The draft legislation released by Reid addresses some significant problems with the oil and gas industry. But, it is a fossil-fuel bill. It will reduce pollution by replacing dirty coal with less-dirty natural gas for generating electricity. But, in its present form, the bill will not advance development of renewable energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal and small hydro generators.

Reid’s draft bill does include some needed regulatory reforms. It would retroactively lift the liability cap on oil spills, making BP responsible for the full cost of cleaning up the Gulf. Other provisions would strengthen oversight of deep-water drilling operations by federal agencies.

The bill includes a “cash for caulkers” provision to give homeowners rebates for energy saving retrofits on their homes. This program is expected to create 150,000 jobs in the energy retrofitting and construction industries. The bill also creates a loan program to finance energy upgrades for homeowners.

An important conservation mandate is that the Land and Water Conservation Fund be fully funded at $900 million annually for five years, and at $500 million or more in subsequent years. These funds will be used for grants to national parks, water projects and other needs.

Reid’s bill would be paid for by a 49 cent-per-barrel fee on oil, up from the current 8 cents-per-barrel. These funds would be deposited in an Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to offset the cost of the legislation.

Reid’s bill proposes rebates for purchasing both electric and natural-gas powered trucks. It also offers manufacturing incentives and funds such infrastructure as refueling and charging stations. For tax incentive purposes, it officially designates electricity for a plug-in vehicle as an alternative fuel.

What the bill lacks, Udall charges, is any support for renewable energy. “While I’m disappointed that this bill doesn’t go as far as I’d like,” he said, “I’m committed to making it as strong as possible.” That’s why Udall led 27 senators who sent a letter to Reid, encouraging him to include a strong renewable energy standard in his bill.

Gov. Ritter said, “The competitive advantages of renewable energy are undeniable, and Colorado’s new energy economy can serve as a road map to a sustainable energy future for the rest of the nation ... I urge the Senate to include an RES in national energy legislation.”

Udall predicts 60 votes could be found in the Senate to overcome the inevitable filibuster of any significant energy legislation. Including a renewable energy standard in the Senate bill would turn what is now an oil and gas bill into a real energy bill that will stimulate job creation as well as ensure a cleaner environment.

Colorado’s new energy economy is creating many thousands of jobs and stimulating development of innovative technologies. The renewable energy standard has been the catalyst in the emergence of Colorado as a national and international leader in clean energy development, with the fourth highest concentration of clean-energy workers in the nation.

The Senate should set the nation on a similar course by including a renewable energy standard in the Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Accountability Act.

Bill Grant, of Grand Junction, can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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