Last week, I sat down for an interview with EnergyNow about the Clean Energy Standard that Obama introduced during his State of the Union. Senate Energy Committee Chair Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) recently put out a white paper soliciting ideas for how the policy should be constructed.
In the first bit, I discuss the CES mechanism and the many unanswered questions about how it will work:
In the second, I talk about the politics of the situation:
It is possible in theory to construct a CES that would make a substantial, positive difference in America’s energy situation. But that’s probably not going to happen. Recall, one political party (not to mention half the other) doesn’t want to use less coal. They celebrate coal! They are very good friends with lots of wealthy people who mine, burn, and enjoy cheap electricity made from coal. Once the interests that dominate Congress have their say, a policy designed to reduce the use of coal probably isn’t going to get much traction.
Even if by some miracle Bingaman hashes out a CES and gets it through his committee, there’s little chance a high-profile Democratic bill will pass both houses of a hyperpartisan Congress in the runup to a presidential election. So the whole thing is more or less Kabuki, except for the fact that Bingaman has to pretend it’s real and put real time into it. Poor guy.
Get Grist in your inbox