Energy Bill deals: Yea and, well, Sigh …

There is great news (sort of) coming out of Congress re a deal on an Energy Bill.  As per the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, there will be an Energy Bill put to the floor next week, a bill including many important measures:

“CAFE will serve as the cornerstone of the energy legislation that will be on the House floor next week.  We will achieve the major goal of increasing vehicle efficiency standards to 35 miles per gallon in 2020, marking an historic advancement in our efforts in the Congress to address our energy security and laying strong groundwork for climate legislation next year.  We are confident that this final product will win the support of the environmental, labor and manufacturing communities.

“This landmark energy legislation will offer the automobile industry the certainty it needs, while offering flexibility to automakers and ensuring we keep American manufacturing jobs and continued domestic production of smaller vehicles.

“This comprehensive package will also include an increase in the Renewable Fuels Standard and a Renewable Electricity Standard, among other key provisions.” 

This is good news, but good news with an asterisk.

 Congressman Ed Markey’s press release (sent to me by email, not on web yet) also heavily praises the package:

“Along with increased fuel economy, the bill marks a new path forward on renewable fuels like ethanol and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. It requires utilities to provide at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2020. By 2022, billions of gallons of ethanol will flow through America’s new, more efficient engines, and wind turbines and solar cells will use nature to power our economy, instead of letting dirty power alter nature

Again, this is great, but with an asterisk merited. 

Why the “yes, but” attitude?

Look, this is far (FAR) better than the 2005 energy bill, but let’s recognize reality. This bill includes:

  • A highly compromised 15% by 2020 Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)/Renewable Electric Standard (RES). It will be great to have a national standard (even so compromised) which will create a floor for the nation and capture the 25 states currently without an RPS.  But, Governor (candidate) Richardson’s uncompromising 30% by 2020 as part of his Energy Revolution sounds pretty good to me. And, well, all of the major Democratic party Candidates have stronger targets than this in their plans.
  • A compromised 35 mpg CAFE by 2020.  Again, all of the Democratic Party Presidential candidates have stronger targets in their plans like this.
  • Extreme Bio-Fuels targets that do not, imo, account for the very serious constraints and implications of those bio-fuels targets (water, land, fertilizer, food prices, bad EROEI, etc).
  • Leaving in place giveaways to the oil and gas industries via tax subidies that were a top target for repeal as part of the 100 hour plan coming in this past January. This oney that could help facilitate an Energy Smart future that will, instead, continue to put money in fossil fuel executives’ pockets that can be used to, for example, fund heavily anti-renewable efforts like those against Cape Wind.

To be honest, the press release glorification of the bills frustrates me even though the members deserve praise for this bill and their actions. Even this compromised a bill took tremendous efforts and required compromises that, for example, I do not believe either Markey or Pelosi would have wanted to make.  For example, Congressman Markey has been working for multiple Congresses to get CAFE standards moving again in the right direction and it is easy to understand why, after all this effort, he is walking on the clouds a little bit. But, having press releases so strongly praising seems to undercut future efforts to take the actions that might actually meet requirements.  Could they not have included even a few words like:

While a great advance over previous Energy Bills, we still have a long way to go. This bill is a downpayment on creating to Energize America for an Energy Smart future for the betterment of all Americans.

Now, let us be clear. The House Energy Independence and Global Warming Committee (Markey’s committee) page review of the Energy Bill  is subitled “The First Step to 80% reduction by 2050”.  In other words, Markey recognizes that the bill is not enough, even if it is a step forward.

But, journalists look to the press releases rather than studying committee web pages.  As it now stands, in my mind, such praising press releases undercuts the ability to move forward to the next steps that are still required. And, well, such strong praising undercuts the Democratic Party presidential candidates’ calls for stronger action. 

I understand press releases. I understand the need to take credit for a large number of reasons. I understand the need to praise. 

But, well, I wish that, at times, this were done with more of a strategic rather than tactical bent.  And, well, these congratulatory press releases scream tactical to me.

In any event, we should thank Pelosi, Markey, and others for their dogged action to get even these measures through … and we should remind them that we support (and support them in achieving) measures that will truly address our needs for major action to address our energy challenges to avert catastrophic climate change.  This is a battle in a long war for all our futures.  It looks like we’ve won some victories here, but the fight is long from over and victory far from secured.


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