I and several other journalists spent the morning at an on-the-record breakfast with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) where, armed with my trusty digital voice recorder, I asked her to address last week’s rumors about the potential demise of renewable energy in the energy bill. Will the electricity standard and the tax titles be dropped? If not, will the bill be split into parts?
Her reaction was … well, I’d call it slight consternation. She, not surprisingly, stopped short of saying anything definitive — there are still no guarantees that the Congress will pass the energy bill enviros are hoping for. But it sounds very much as if renewables were not thrown under the bus, though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may still turn it into two or three bills if he thinks it will help certain parts of it overcome the 60-vote hurdle in the Senate.
But that’s not exactly chastening because — let’s be realistic here — if he’s unwilling to force a real filibuster over Iraq withdrawal timelines, then he’s unlikely to force a real filibuster over renewable energy. Still, Pelosi did at one point describe the bill as, potentially, a “beautiful Christmas present,” and reiterated her hope that the bill would pass — with renewables and all the rest — before the end of the year.
I sat near one end of a rather long banquet table and the Speaker sat at the opposing head, so my recording was, in certain parts, difficult to transcribe. But 99 percent of it is below the fold.
Me: Last week, there were some reports that perhaps renewable energies and the tax titles might be stripped from the energy bill. And there were reports that perhaps the bill might be trifurcated or bifurcated into distinct parts. Where is the bill now, and if the renewables are at risk, what’s being done to keep them alive?
Pelosi: Let me be really clear. As I said at the beginning, this is a flagship issue for me. My position is that I will defend the House position on renewable electricity standard, which I took the lead in making sure is in that bill. I think we absolutely have to have a CAFE standard similar to the one that was in the Senate bill, though I think we can do better than that. And that we want this to be accomplished by the Senate.
How we get it done remains to be seen because we have to be able to get 60 votes in the Senate. But we will get it done.
And there is absolutely no — I don’t know where these things come from. I honestly don’t, because you have to have fuel efficiency, CAFE, whatever you want to call it. Eighty-two percent of the American people support CAFE standard … 72 percent of the people in Michigan support CAFE standard in the Senate bill as opposed to some of the other proposals that are out there …
The renewable piece is about how smart we are about going into the future. In order to have renewables prevail, you have to have two things: You have to have a standard … and you have to have some incentives — the tax credits. And we intend to have those in the legislation that we present. Whatever form it takes is up to us to decide how we can pass it. But these are essential if we’re going to have anything that’s real. And what we’re going to do is give business what they always say they want: certainty. Certainty in terms of CAFE standard. Certainty in terms of a renewable fuel standard. Certainty in terms of a renewable electricity standard. So they can work their magic, so the private sector can do what it does, whether investing in solar … and wind, biofuels, and all the rest.
So again, Brian, I can’t tell you where these rumors start. But again, this is what we’re proposing, this is what we hope to achieve, how we get from here to there will be up to us to decide just how to do that. … My hope is to have it as one bill, but of course I can say that because I’m in the House and I’m Speaker of the House and I can put whatever I want on the floor. But they still have to get past that 60 vote [requirement] in the Senate.