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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Keeping Up the Power Shift: Senate Set to Take Second Stab at Energy Bill

Bits and pieces of information are coming in today indicating that the Senate is gearing up to take a second stab at passing an energy bill later this week.

After failing to pass the full energy bill passed by the House last week, Senate leaders negotiated over the weekend to seek a compromise that would net the bill the crucial 60 votes to overcome a Republican-led filibuster threat.

It appears they are nearing that compromise and a second attempt to end debate and pass the bill is scheduled for Thursday, December 13th. If it passes the Senate, the bill will return to the House for passage on Friday before heading to President Bush's desk. Whether or not the President will veto a bill expected to save Americans billions at the pump and on their utilities bills at a time of record high gas prices remains to be seen...

Word has it that the renewable energy standard has been dropped from the bill and that the bill will include a stripped down package of tax incentives for renewable energy. The final makeup of that tax package is still under negotiation and details are sparse, although it is expected to include a two-year extension of critical credits for renewable energy generation, enough to get us into a new President's term and a new Congress.

Clearly losing the renewable energy standard, which would have required large utilities to acquire 15% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, is a major disappointment (although Reid has pledged to try to pass it as a stand-alone bill in 2008).

The fact that the Senate has had such difficulty passing an energy bill with strong support for clean, domestic renewable energy is a clear sign that we've got a lot of work ahead of us to keep up the Power Shift! We need to work hard to ensure that political realities change over the next year to closely match what real reality demands of Congress!

However, it still looks like an energy bill well worth passing is heading for a vote tomorrow and it's time again to get on the phone and urge your Senators to get the job done and pass a clean energy bill!

The bill heading for a vote is expected to include:

  • The first increase in fuel economy standards in 30 years, up to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. These provisions will save American families $700 - $1000 per year at the pump, with $22 billion in net consumer savings in 2020 alone.

  • The best energy efficiency standards in U.S. history, including new efficiency standards for lighting, appliances and boilers and incentives for home weatherization and industrial energy efficiency. The bill also directs the federal government to be a leader in energy efficiency with cutting-edge, efficient building practices and lighting in all federal buildings.

  • A "Green Jobs" provision that creates an Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Worker Training Program to train a quality workforce for “green” collar jobs -- such as solar panel manufacturer and green building construction worker -- created by federal renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives. This program will provide training opportunities to our veterans, to those displaced by national energy and environmental policy and economic globalization, to individuals seeking pathways out of poverty, to at risk youth and to those workers in the energy field needing to update their skills.

  • A biofuels standard that requires 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022, including at least 21 billion gallons that come from advanced biofuels that do not rely on corn or other edible feedstocks. While the expansion of corn-based ethanol raises environmental, economic and justice concerns, advanced biofuels using inedible biomass or even algae could displace significant amounts of oil and help decrease greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.

  • Some clean energy tax package. The House version of the bill included $21 billion in tax incentives for renewable energy, energy efficiency and plug-in hybrid vehicles, financed in part by reinvesting $13.5 billion in unnecessary tax subsidies for Big Oil in the clean energy technologies of the future. The final Senate version will likely include a smaller tax package but should retain critical renewable energy tax incentives that will ensure the industry can continue to grow, providing more and more clean, domestic renewable energy for America.

So call your Senators today and urge them to finish the job and pass a clean energy bill tomorrow! The future prosperity of this country depends on the success of the clean, domestic energy technologies of the 21st Century, and this bill is a critical first step towards unlocking a clean energy revolution.

You should feel free to let your Senators know you were disappointed that they couldn't pass the House version of the energy bill, but tell them you expect them to still pass a strong bill tomorrow, including critical tax incentives for renewable energy generation.

So what are you waiting for? Get on the phone...

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