Hello! I just wanted to drop by Gristmill to give all of you an update on the energy bill. To no one’s surprise, the Republicans are throwing sand in the gears and trying to block any meaningful progress.

The energy bill, as it stands, is not nearly strong enough, so there are a number of amendments that must be adopted to give us a bill that actually gets us started on that path of dealing with our energy crisis and our climate crisis.

But when we tried to bring up the Bingaman amendment that requires the use of alternative energy sources, the Republicans in the Senate simply refused to vote up or down on it, essentially demanding that these amendments get 60 votes to even be considered. The procedural details of what they’re doing and our responses get pretty arcane pretty quickly, but as I type this in the midmorning we’re currently locked in a battle to move all of this forward.

It’s amazing to me that some people still refuse to see the gravity of the situation staring us in the face, with the best science telling us we may only have a decade to act before the climate crisis reaches a dangerous tipping point. But there are the same interests throwing up the same roadblocks. Take CAFE standards — I and many others are demanding that the standards be raised to 35 mpg by the end of the next decade, with light trucks and SUVs included in that and other mandatory requirements for medium and heavy trucks. And we want to close the loopholes that allow automakers to miss even those targets. But the Bush administration has written to Congress that they are opposed to any numerical requirement in the statute.

Think about that for a moment. They say they want fuel economy to get better, but they don’t want to put any numeric requirements about what that means. And they want medium and heavy trucks exempted from even that!

Another area where I’m pushing is to require that at least 20 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020. This has been a part of my energy plan since 2002, and I mentioned this over and over (and over) during the campaign in 2004. There has been significant support for this change now in Congress, but there are still powerful interests arrayed against it.

Dogmatic refusal to consider new approaches to this crisis can have such enormous consequences, it boggles the mind how people can do it.

I noticed the article that was flagged by David Roberts here a couple of days ago that indicated the big fights were going to be over some of the same tired issues of the past — but that’s not entirely true. Sure, there is once again a proposal to drill in ANWR, and we once again will strongly fight that. But overall, there are significant steps being taken, and now there’s a leadership in the Congress that wants action on this. In addition to the CAFE standards, I’m fighting to get more conservation and efficiency throughout the economy, and we have a bill pending to make the Capitol complex green, so that the federal government can be a model of how to make workplaces environmentally friendly, not a glaring example of “do as I say not as I do” politics.

While I strongly oppose any bills promoting coal-to-liquid technology, I’m also fighting to make our most widely used electrical-generating fuel, which is coal, cleaner with carbon capture and sequestration pilot projects and research funding. And I’m working to ban the building of any new coal-fired plants without that technology.

All of these proposals have significant support in Congress, and, unlike in the last couple of Congresses, the leadership is behind my efforts to get real votes on these issues and force some change.

But I’ve learned, starting way back when I was working as an activist on the first Earth Day, that environmental change doesn’t happen without a lot of activism from Americans. There are too many monied interests defending the status quo because they think it makes them more money. They don’t want to upset their old balance sheets by embracing the new economy and the prosperity that will flow from abundant clean energy.

There are lots of business people who do recognize that, and many sectors of our economy are already leaping ahead of the federal government on these questions. Fred Smith of Fed Ex testifies today in front of my committee about the importance of raising fuel economy standards.

But the entrenched interests (especially Big Oil) still hold sway with many in Congress. So the activism of ordinary Americans is desperately needed to tip the scales decisively in favor of a new direction. Call your senators today and tell them that you want a new direction. Tell them that you want CAFE standards raised, that you want at least 20 percent of our energy to be from renewable resources, that you want significant action on energy policy.

Thanks for your time. Being in the thick of all of the floor fights, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to respond to any comments today, but I’ll try, and I’ll at least read through them all at the end of the day.