Democratic nerves are running high that the Senate will kill the so-called “Climate Bill” that just made it out of committee in the House. But a 9-13 vote yesterday in its Energy and Natural Resources Committee prevented the removal of renewable energy mandates from a broader energy bill — suggesting that the Senate might be more amenable to the controversial American Clean Energy and Security Act than previously thought.
Even more encouraging to the climate bill’s supporters in the House, two staunch republicans joined Democrats in opposing the amendment: Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.). The energy package in the Senate (still open for amendments) would require 15 percent of U.S. retail electricity to come from renewable sources by 2021, whereas the House’s climate bill calls for 20 percent by 2020.
Still, the vote might not be indicative of the climate bill’s fate in the Senate. The energy package focuses on renewables, not emissions — which has been the flashpoint for opposition in the House. Republicans and Democrats agree that the climate bill’s recommended cap-and-trade emissions system remains imperfect, would be difficult to implement and would have a radical impact on the already ailing economy. Undoubtedly, the bill’s supporters and lobbyists still have a tough road to hoe.
Both bills would chip away at president Barack Obama’s overall plan to have a quarter of American electricity be generated by renewable sources by 2025. But some have suggested he’d be willing to stick both pieces of legislation in a drawer until 2010 so that he can go to bat for health care reform instead. With industry strongly opposing the climate bills’ ramifications for the economy and national employment and officials on both sides of the aisle admitting their unwieldy faults, Obama may choose to conserve his political capital. Health care is the top priority for most of Americans, after all.
Both pieces of legislation follow in the footsteps of mandates approved or pending in 29 states and Washington, D.C. Predictably, California leads the pack, aiming to have 33 percent of electricity derived from renewables by 2020.