US Senate May Consider Federal Renewable Energy Standard

Is this RES for real?

It’s baaack. Maybe.

Tomorrow at 2:30 PM EDT, a federal Renewable Energy Standard (RES) — which has been pronounced dead and then revived many times in the past year — will get another jolt of Senate CPR, when a bipartisan group of Senators unveils a new attempt at establishing a minimum amount of electricity that utilities must produce from renewable sources such as wind and solar power.

The big difference this time is that the RES will stand alone — not as part of a comprehensive (and controversial) climate bill. Whether that helps the bill or hurts its chances for passage is anyone’s guess. Uncertainty about the bill’s fate is further compounded by election season politics.

Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) will introduce the new RES, with the support of colleagues Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tom Udall (D-NM).

In a statement released today by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which Bingaman chairs, the senior senator from New Mexico declared that the Senate “need[s] to get on with figuring out what we can pass and move forward.” (Bingaman’s earlier attempt at crafting a RES was criticized for being too weak.)

In the same statement, Bingaman’s GOP counterpart on the committee, Sam Brownback, argued that a RES “will encourage home-grown supplies like wind in Kansas and help diversify our nation’s energy sources.”

Perhaps they can actually make it happen this time. Then again, we’re talking about the United States Senate, which, if it were a country, would be declared a failed state. And the emailed press release doesn’t exactly instill confidence in the cooperative process. Democrat Binagman apparently believes RES is an acronym for “Renewable Electricity Standard,” whereas for Republican Brownback, it stands for “Renewable Energy Standard.”

It’s a small matter, no doubt. But the group needs to be on the same page — and using the same terminology — if the RES is to become more than a political CPR practice dummy.

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