Sunday, June 27, 2010
National ENERGY policy
40% of our emissions come from utilities and most already operate under a mandate called an RPS.
National policy would help them plan for a cleaner future.
LA TIMES Reporting from Washington — With the gulf oil spill creating political opportunity, Senate Democrats will begin crafting a sweeping energy bill this week that could include a first-ever, though more modest, cap on global-warming pollution, believing they must act now despite differences within their ranks and political jitters in an election year.
Instead of regulating all sources of greenhouse gas emissions as originally proposed, lawmakers are considering placing a carbon cap initially only on utility companies. That idea was once dismissed by environmentalists as too incremental, but now is seen by some as better than no cap at all.
President Obama will meet Tuesday with a bipartisan group of senators to push for a new energy policy. "We are prepared and ready to move forward on a new energy strategy that the American people desperately want but for which there's been insufficient political will," Obama said recently. "It is time for us to move to a clean-energy future."
With political will running short before the midterm election, the Senate has shown little appetite for a broader, economy-wide climate change bill as passed by the House almost exactly one year ago.
Even a more modest carbon cap remains difficult for senators wary of another ambitious government program at a time of voter unrest over Washington's reach.
A broad carbon-pricing system would essentially require power plants, manufacturers and transportation industries to limit the pollution that scientists say is causing climate change and would tax entities that exceed their caps.
Republicans dismiss such a cap-and-trade system as a new tax on households and business — "cap-and-tax," they call it. With the Democrats' 59-member caucus intensely divided on energy issues, crossover support from Republicans would be needed.
Still, a majority of Democrats appear willing to risk legislative failure, believing a robust summer discussion on energy would establish a stark contrast between the parties before the fall election.
Tackling energy legislation gives Democrats a strategy they believe resonates with voters — though one that would expose them to GOP taunts over higher taxes, a fight Republicans would relish.
"If we spend our time always worrying about that 60th vote, we never get to do anything in a strong position," said Sen. Mark Begich (D- Alaska).
A group of senators is expected to meet this week to begin crafting legislation that could come to the floor in mid-July.
By Lisa Mascaro and Richard Simon
Tribune Washington Bureau