Friday, October 09, 2009

Dealing with the Devil... er, Republicans.

Over at Grist.org, Dave Roberts ponders the merits of a deal to entice Republican votes for climate legislation, and discusses the right ways to go about it. I actually spent a chunk of time yesterday leafing through the Republican "alternative" energy bill introduced in the House in June to see what exactly these Rs want for nukes and oil. It was like stepping into bizarro world. Here's what I found:

On Oil: allow drilling on the outer continental shelf (OCS) and the arctic coastal plain (aka parts of ANWR). Extend state waters to 12 miles offshore (they are currently 3 miles, except in the Gulf I think, where it may be 12 already) so they have "an incentive to allow production in their waters, as they would receive a larger share of royalties." 75% of revenues would go to states if lease is offshore within 12 miles of their shore, 50% if farther than 12 miles from shore or in the Arctic plain . Interestingly enough, it looks like 90% of the remaining federal share of the royalties - or 22.5-45% of total royalty revenues depending on location - would go to a "Renewable and Alternative Energy Trust Fund" to fund clean energy research and deployment. Now that's not a bad idea. If we're going to give them the OCS, we should get the revenues for clean energy, so we can make oil obsolete. Sweetens the pot on what you already consider not too much of a concession (although I imagine you'd have a harder time conceding ANWR than the OCS).

On Nukes: the big things they want are 1) to fast track the regulatory process to take 2 years time (now it usually takes 4 yrs) for new nukes using plant designs already certified by the NRC at sites adjacent to already operating reactors (and that meet a couple of other common sense criteria). 2) State that it is the goal of U.S. energy policy to build 100 new nukes by 2030, but they make clear this "would not mandatenew reactors are built" (so who cares?). 3) extend the 30% Investment Tax Credit available to solar and other renewables to new nukes and 4) keep Yucca Mountain on the table.

I don't see anything immediately wrong with points 1 or 2. Point 3 seems in line with Robert's recommendation to "compromise with money not architecture or mandates." He writes, "As long as the compromises do not mandate nukes and drilling, or write them into the architecture of the bill, things should turn out all right." I tend to agree. Point 4 just simply won't fly while Senator Harry Reid is majority leader, so hopefully that isn't the end of this whole idea. John McCain, one of the key targets in this "Go Nuclear" strategy, has been rabidly defensive of Yucca, so we'll see...

All in all, not that scary if it what you want is a climate bill with 60 bipartisan votes, eh? I'm pretty darned skeptical that Boxer and Kerry will be able to forge a true bipartisan consensus on climate policy, especially in the hyper-partisan atmosphere that has taken root in the U.S. Congress this year. Images of Max Baucus's "bipartisan" health care negotiations that yielded zero Republican support for his final (compromised) proposal come to mind. But if you want a climate bill this year, it's worth a shot, as long as Dem negotiators heed Roberts' advice and secure real commitments to support final passage of a bill in exchange for any giveaways to pro-nuke or pro-oil Republicans.

Now the rest of the Republican's "American Energy Act" contains a ton of shite on oil shale and the like that make little sense from a climate context. But it also includes provisions to make the Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit for renewables permanent, so maybe that should be part of any deal with Rs as well. If we're going to take a couple of their bad ideas, why not take a couple good ones as well, eh?

No comments: