Clean Energy Standard Would Power U.S. With 84% Low Carbon Energy by 2035

Port of San Diego/CC BY 2.0

Renewable energy standards (RES) are considered one of the least offensive climate policy platforms. They're pretty straightforward: they require utilities to produce a given percentage of their power from clean sources—this typically means solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, and biomass, and not nuclear. Many U.S. states have enacted their own RES policies, with benchmarks ranging from 10-40% (here's a list of all the states' RES commitments as of this time last year).

After the dramatic crash and burn of the comprehensive climate legislation built around cap and trade in Congress in 2010, there were a few efforts to pursue a less ambitious RES-only platform.

Now, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) is looking to give it another go, the Hill reports. He just floated a proposal to install a nationwide clean energy standard that would mandate that utilities get a rising percentage of their power from "low carbon" sources beginning in 2015. It would culminate in 2035, when 84% of the nation's power would come from all the renewable sources listed above, as well as natural gas and nuclear. That's the biggest change here—the effort to attract industry and bipartisan support by allowing nuclear and nat gas to constitute a part of the clean energy mix.

But even a watered down RES faces adamant opposition in Congress—the bill was introduced without any Republican backers, even though GOP pols have supported similar legislation in the past. Here's the Hill:

Bingaman introduced the bill without Republicans support. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the top Republican on Bingaman’s committee, has said she will only such a standard if it replaces federal climate regulations. Bingaman acknowledged Thursday that the bill faces major opposition ...

“Getting substantive legislation through both houses of congress to the president’s signature is very difficult in this Congress,” Bingaman said.

Obvs. I wouldn't hold your breath for this thing to get anywhere near to passage, especially in the Tea Partying House, where "mandate" is as dirty a word as there is. But it provides a vehicle for Obama's "all of the above" energy strategy, one that demonstrates that he's "doubling down on clean energy" while supporting natural gas and nukes. It's another one of those bills that would have been considered highly bipartisan—even disappointing to environmentalists—in a time long, long ago, before extreme Tea Party mentality-induced partisan gridlock wracked Congress. Like 2008.

Tags: Renewable Energy

Best of TreeHugger