photo via flickr
As the dust settles and activists are left to wonder what's next for climate and energy reform after Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled the plug this week on a climate bill that will put a price on carbon, there is a growing chorus of voices calling for a renewable energy mandate that would require the nation's utilities to produce a minimum amount of renewable energy. But Reid threw cold water on that policy prescription too, saying Friday at the Netroots Nation conference in his home state of Nevada, "I don't think I have 60 votes to get that done." Last week, a coalition of environmental and labor groups sent Reid a letter saying that a renewables mandate makes economic sense because it will increase our competitiveness and put us on the road to reducing our carbon pollution. Sadly, the groups might as well be shouting into an abandoned well, as this Senate is paralyzed by the upcoming election and not buoyed by an aggressive president who has prioritized clean energy development.
The letter from the Blue Green Alliance, United Steelworkers, Sierra Club, American Wind Energy Association, Xcel Energy and 10 others, reads:
"Without immediate passage, hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost and surrendered to other countries forever." The mandate would "would provide a down-payment on carbon reduction goals, save and create jobs, and keep America competitive."
Last year, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Sen. Jeff Bingaman from New Mexico, passed a renewable mandate that called for utilities to offer 15 percent of their electricity from sources like wind and solar by 2021. But the measure has not been brought by Reid to the floor for a vote, and it looks like it won't be any time soon.
As a contrast, my home state of California has a renewable energy mandate of 33 percent by 2020. The mandate has the three big utilities here scrambling to invest in low carbon projects, and although there is some doubt that the goal will be reached in time, California is well on its way to greening its grid. The Senate should look West for an example of how policy can shape the future.