Senate Panel OKs Bill To Increase Green U.S. Power
WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES -- The U.S. Senate may vote later this month on an energy bill that would by 2020 require that 15 percent of U.S. electricity be produced by renewable sources such as wind and solar.
The same bill would require 10 percent of federal power purchases to be produced by "green" methods by 2010.
The Senate Energy Committee Wednesday sent to the full chamber a bill that also targets demand for gasoline -- the biggest chunk of U.S. petroleum use -- by increasing fuel economy and boosting production of nonpetroleum fuels like ethanol.
While much of the bill centers around a plan to cut gasoline consumption by 20 percent by 2017, 35 percent by 2025 and 45 percent by 2030, it also would set goals for "green" power production and authorize $315 million to study carbon dioxide emission storage at power plants, oil refineries and other industrial plants.
This is the fourth time a federal "renewable portfolio standard" for electricity production has been attempted in Congress. Three times before it has passed the Senate, only to be felled by a Republican-controlled House.
The bill's major co-sponsor and chairman of the Senate energy panel, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a Democrat from New Mexico, is confident that, with Democrats now controlling the House, a federal standard can be set, his spokesman said Wednesday.
Bingaman said he would try to modify the legislation on the Senate floor to include a requirement that 15 percent of U.S. electricity supplies be generated by solar, wind and other renewable energy sources by 2020.
More than 20 states have established "renewable portfolio standards" requiring green power production. At least 12 of them are at least as stringent as the Senate proposal, and this bill would not trump state-level renewable power efforts.
"This is an issue where the states are ahead of the federal government," said Bill Wicker, spokesman for Bingaman and the Senate Energy Committee. "There is no federal preemption of existing state renewable portfolio standards."
Existing hydropower projects or any nuclear power plants would not be considered renewable power, Wicker said. New output at hydropower projects would count, he said.
Wicker said Bingaman got a letter Tuesday signed by 50 of the chamber's 100 senators. Add the letter's recipient to the count and a Senate majority "is on the record saying they will support it," Wicker said.
Bingaman said Democratic leaders may have the Senate take up the bill this month. If the legislation is accepted by the Senate, it still must be approved by the House and signed by President Bush before it could become law.