Energy Bill Shenanigans
First, Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) is working to strip the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) title out of the Senate Energy Bill and attach it wholesale to the Ag Bill currently under debate in the Senate. Domenici claims he's just trying to save the RFS from the potentially floundering Energy Bill, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) says he's got more sinister motives.
According to lots of folks, including Reid, Domenici is really trying to kill the Energy Bill with this move.
Remember that Domenici was the man who led the filibuster in the Senate that blocked both the Renewable Electricity Standard and the tax package that would have shifted billions in unnecessary royalties and closed loopholes to provide $32 billion in tax incentives from the oil and gas industries to fund clean, renewable energy.
As David Roberts at GristMill writes,
"The RFS is one of the key planks holding support for the energy bill together, bringing in some midwestern Republicans to compensate for the auto and oil Dems that have bailed [due to fuel economy standrd increases and the shift in subsidies from oil to renewables]. If the RFS falls out of the energy bill, the coalition falls apart."So by pulling out the Renewable Fuels Standard, Domenici seems to be trying to pull the plug on the embattled Energy Bill. Without the RFS, and the farm-state Rs it brings along, the Energy Bill is unlikely to get the 60 votes necessary to pass filibuster in the Senate (likely led - again! - by Senator Domenici).
And as if that's not bad enough, Mr. D. is also trying to tack on his beloved massive loan guarantee for new nuclear power plants to the Ag Bill.
Yeah, "what do nukes have to do with agriculture?" Well, not much, but Domenici plans to try to make it germane by calling the federal loan guarantees "loan guarantees for renewable fuel facilities." Then in a bit of wonderful D.C. trickery, the amendment lumps nuclear power plants within the list of eligible "renewable fuel facilities." Nice one Pete.
The loan guarantees, which total $50 billion in the Senate version of the Energy Bill, would essentially put John and Jane Q. Taxpayer on the hook for any loan defaults by new nuclear power plant developers. The guarantees are necessary because no sane investment bank would finance a new nuclear power plant given the risk and uncertainty in permitting a new nuke.
So when Wall Street won't foot the bill for new nukes, let's put our taxpayers on the hook, or at least that's Senator Domenici's philosophy here. Good thing nuke developers have never defaulted on loans before ... oh wait!
All part of retiring Senator Domenici's legacy of fighting renewable energy. He can't retire soon enough, if you ask me.
Possible Cave-in on Renewable Energy Brewing
So, with influential Republicans working to kill the fragile coalition supporting the Energy Bill, embattled Democratic leaders are considering jettisoning the support for renewable energy in the House version of the Energy Bill.
According to rumors flying around D.C. and across the blogosphere, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid are considering stripping the 15% by 2020 Renewable Electricity Standard (or Renewable Portfolio Standard) and the $32 billion tax package for renewable energy from the Energy Bill in order to try to keep increased fuel economy standards in the bill.
Stripping the RES and the tax title would mean Dems had been forced to cave on just about everything that President Bush has complained about and Senator Rs had fought against.
The 35 mpg by 2020 increase in CAFE standards is critical, especially at a time when oil is trading at nearly $100 per barrel. However, the support for clean, homegrown renewable energy in the Energy Bill is equally critical and the Democratic Leadership needs to be clear that the RES and tax title are not ballast to be thrown overboard in stormy waters.
It's time to send Pelosi, Reid and your own reps and senators a clear message that the Energy Bill must include all three provisions: increased fuel economy standards, a renewable electricity standard, AND a tax package for clean, renewable energy.
Let President Bush veto a critical energy bill at a time of record high energy prices and explain that to the American people. Let House and Senate Rs explain why they blocked efforts to save Americans energy and money, help kick our oil addiction, invest in clean, homegrown, renewable energy sources and put America on a path to a sustainable and prosperous energy future.
But DO NOT cave in.
This isn't the "change" we voted for in November 2006, and we'll be voting for new leaders in 2008 if our current set can't get the job done.