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Renewable energy advocates eye break from climate change debate  

Credit:  Tom LoBianco, Platts, www.platts.com 16 November 2010 ~~

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 Tuesday. “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.

Source:  Tom LoBianco, Platts, www.platts.com 16 November 2010

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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