Renewable energy advocates eye break from climate change debate
Washington (Platts)--16Nov2010/712 pm EST/012 GMT
Renewable energy advocates, now facing Republican control of the House of
Representatives next year, are decoupling from efforts to curb greenhouse gas
emissions and retooling some of their long-standing proposals as they look for
ways to win.
Supporters of solar, wind and other renewable energy sources will have
to break away from the climate change debate and frame their issue in broad
terms of economic stability, job creation and national security, Dan Esty,
head of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, said Tuesday.
Esty spoke at the rollout of a new policy plan by the Coalition for Green
Capital, a group comprised of renewable energy advocates.
"The key here is to reframe the debate. It can't be about cap and trade
and climate change, and frankly... it can't be about renewable energy," Esty
said. "There is a climate change piece at the end, but it's really got to be
the tail, not the dog."
The political decision to run from efforts to curb greenhouse gas
emissions -- and the derisive term of "energy tax" that opponents successfully
affixed to it -- is hardly new. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada
Democrat, said in July that the words "cap and trade" were "not in my
vocabulary," and that he was focused on "pollution."
Perhaps most controversial among the group's plans is a call to
privatize the Tennessee Valley Authority and use the proceeds to fund the
creation of a renewable energy investment bank.
CGC is also pushing for a 10-year extension of production and
investment tax credits designed to help utilities defer the costs of
purchasing renewable energy.
The group is also seeking a national mandate for the purchase of
renewable energy, which would set a baseline of obtaining 25% of electricity
from renewable sources. But unlike other proposals, the RES might allow for
regions to meet 15% of the standard from renewable energy sources, another 5%
from energy efficiency improvements and another 5% from clean energy sources
more abundant in different regions of the US, such as nuclear energy.
Adding nuclear to the mix could win the support of some lawmakers from
the South and Southeast, like Senator Lindsey Graham, South Carolina
Republican. But it could also alienate support from other powerful lawmakers.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, a
New Mexico Democrat, who proposed a national RES in September, has said he
would not consider adding nuclear energy to an RES bill because it is not a
source of energy, like wind or solar, that is renewable.
None of the proposals are set in stone -- such as the proposal to
auction the TVA -- but should serve as starting points for discussing, said
Reed Hundt, CEO of the CGC and a former head of the Federal Communications
Commission in the Clinton administration.
No lawmakers have signed onto sponsor the legislation yet, and it is
unlikely CGC's plan will move as one piece through Congress, said Gerry
Waldron, pro-bono counsel to the group and one of the authors of the
Waxman-Markey climate bill when he was working on the House Energy and
Commerce Committee last year.
Lawmakers have supported various pieces of the package before, such as
Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, who sponsored a bill in
2009 that would have created a green energy bank similar to what CGC proposed
"Not all of these issues will be subject to bitter partisanship and the
promise here is that energy can be one of those issues" with bipartisan
support, Waldron said.
--Tom LoBianco, email@example.com
Similar stories appear in Renewable Energy Report.
See more information at http://www.platts.com/Products/renewableenergyreport/