Thursday, June 14, 2007

Saved some outrage?


Meet the next Senate monster, Senate Bill S. 1419

"To move the United States toward greater energy independence and security, to increase the production of clean renewable fuels, to protect consumers from price gouging, to increase the energy efficiency of products, buildings, and vehicles, to promote research on and deploy greenhouse gas capture and storage options, and to improve the energy performance of the Federal Government, and for other purposes."

Here is the traditional storyline for why the bill will be opposed:

The bloated, pork-laden Energy Bill of 2005 was supposed to deal with energy issues for the foreseeable future. No such luck. This Energy Bill, S.1419, is far, far worse. It will raise energy prices, raise food prices, increase hunger, worsen appliance performance, make the roads more dangerous and bring back Carter-era gas lines and shortages just when we need them the least - after disasters. It's a horrendous concoction of every bad energy idea imaginable and will impact every family trying to make ends meet around the country. It's unbelievably stupid in its rehashing of failed ideas and do-it-yourself economics.

Here is the real power of opposition will actually come from:

Arguing power generated by giant windmill complexes "makes strip mining look like a decorative art," Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) led the rebellion for the Southerners. He complained that his state has very little wind power, except on mountain ridges, and gets 33% of its electricity and 7% from hydroelectric dams. It would be unfairly penalized, he said, because neither source is regarded as "renewable." To meet the target, utilities there would have to buy wind or solar generated electricity generated elsewhere, boosting costs to consumers.

Eleven environmental groups fought to save the "renewable portfolio standard," a measure designed to reduce air pollution that has passed the Senate three times previously, but each time was rejected by the House. "This one is a lot tighter than you'd like," said Marchant Wentworth, a lobbyist for the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has helped promote renewable energy mandates in 22 states.

But because those state measures vary widely, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D., N.M.), chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, sponsored an amendment that would establish a uniform federal standard to require utilities to produce 15% of their electricity from wind, solar power or other "renewable" energy sources by 2020. That would be a big boost, since currently such sources supply between 2% and 3% of the nation's electricity.

"Renewable energy," however, is a term of art, defined by environmental groups. It excludes nuclear energy and hydroelectric power, although neither power source produces air-polluting emissions. Mr. Bingaman argued that reliance on more renewable energy would raise electricity prices by less than 1% and produce some savings by lowering the demand and the price of natural gas, which many utilities currently use to make electricity.

Keep in mind that this "Energy Bill" does not bring nuclear, hydroelectric, liquid coal, new refinery capacity, or any short term fixes to the table. That will end up being the deal breaker should these not be addressed, even if it comes in the form of a veto.

5 comments:

Matthew said...

Hi, I'm working with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and this bill is getting out of control. I just wanted to add that the proposed increase in fuel economy standards would limit consumer choice and raise the sticker price for autos. Not good for you and me but think about the small businesses that depend on smaller trucks and minivans for their livelihood. We need to fight this thing. more info is available at DriveCongress.com.

Framer said...

Indeed, I am going to revisit the automobile part of the issue.

What this bill appears to be is legislation composed at an idealogical and emotional basis rather than grounded in any type of economical or practical reality. Removing nuclear and hydroelectric from consideration as a "renewable" energy resource is pretty arbitrary, and based more on Sierra Club recommendation than any type of rational planning.

Sirocco said...

I agree the removal of hydroelectric and nuclear power from consideration as renewable resources is inane, and it disappoints me greatly.

However, increased fuel economy standards are something we need, and we need it more than we need "consumer choice". There are bright engineers out there, some of them are even employed by the auto industry (most of them at Toyota and Honda lately, apparently, but that's another story), and I am sure they can find ways to provide myself and other consumers ample choice and better fuel efficiency at teh same time.

Framer said...

Sirocco,

Oh, no doubt there is room to move toward fuel economy, and $3-$4 a gallon will get us there anyway. Fuel Economy is what built Toyota and Honda regardless of government mandate. Making automakers pour R&D into what Chuck Schumer thinks is important it a terrible idea. I would prefer that this money be spent competing with other manufacturers to bring about real innovation. Every dime spent into making your car lighter to save fuel, then overengineering after that to compensate for safety could be used to invest in more robust battery systems, fuel cell innovations, and biofuel technology.

Do you think that there is any one person in the senate who has a big enough clue to lay out a plan for automobile power development moving forward into the rest of the century? How about at Toyota or GM? If such a person exists, that is where they will be. Let them work.

Now if the government wants to lay out some sort of X prize reward for certain technological benchmarks in the fuel saving area, I'm all for that, and it would actually be effective.

This "energy" bill is a stinker from the get-go.

Sirocco said...

Framer,

Hmmmm ... where exactly does the bill spell out how any _company_ has to allocate it's R&D money? If a company thinks it can more rapidly increase it's fuel efficiency values through investment into fuel cell innovations, more power to them.

The bill does allocate money for research into lightweight materials, but that's a government program, not something expected to be funded by auto manufacturers.

It's always possible I am missing something in the bill which dictates to car companies which technologies they can and can not invest research dollars in. Please feel free to point it out to me. I scanned the entire document and didn't see any such provision, but may have overlooked it.