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Renewable Energy Legislation Comes Back to Life

September 24, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

When the Senate abandoned their climate bill earlier this year, the renewable energy standard (RES), which was the other big provision in it besides cap-and-trade, seemed to die with it. The provision would have required utilities to produce more of their power from clean sources like wind and solar, but It wasn’t brought back in the scaled-down energy package that Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] put together from remnants of the dead climate bill. “The numbers that we have indicate that those votes are not there,” Reid said in July regarding a RES.

Now, a, bipartisan pair of senators is out to prove Reid wrong. On Tuesday, Sen. Jeff Bingaman [D, NM] and Sen. Sam Brownback [R, KS] introduced a stand-alone RES bill that would mandate 15% of power to be generated by renewables — not 20% like the climate bill — and they’re now up to 25 co-sponsors. Significantly, four of the co-sponsors are Republicans, which is a big deal considering the lack of aisle-crossing in the Senate the past few months.

Brownback says his support for the bill is contingent on it staying a stand-alone. “I’m not going to go along with just anything [Reid] throws in there,” Brownback said when the bill was introduced. “I believe in it. I think it’s the right thing to do, but I can’t be cute with it.” Brownback has been the most vocal proponent of a RES among the Republicans. He is also the most conservative of the 4 Republican co-sponsors for this bill, so his support is seen as crucial to corralling the 60 senators that would be needed to pass this.

With a handful of Democrats expected to vote “no,” Bigaman and Brownback probably need at least two more Republican backers for this to look viable to the Democratic leadership. If they can get there, chalk this one up next to the Bush tax cuts, food safety, unemployment benefits, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” repeal, the DREAM Act and the hundreds of House-passed bills that Senate Dems would like to take up in the post-midterms lame-duck session.

Wind farm pic from freefotouk used under a CC license.

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