Criticism is growing for the energy bill passed Wednesday by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Numerous environmental and energy groups have made it clear that they believe the Renewable Energy Standard within the bill is far too weak.
Marchant Wentworth, a clean energy advocate at Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) said the RES could actually inhibit the proliferation of renewable power in the U.S.
"This bill’s renewable standard is so pitiful that it wouldn’t require any new renewable energy development beyond business as usual," Wentworth said. "Moreover, if any states adopted the loopholes and exemptions in this bill, it could reduce the amount of renewable energy development we expect under existing state policies."
Wentworth cited a UCS analysis that found the energy package’s renewable electricity standard would require much less wind, solar, biomass and other renewable energy development than what studies by the federal government and others conclude is achievable and affordable. For example, the Department of Energy projects that current state policies and federal incentives would increase renewable energy to about 10.2% of total U.S. electricity generation by 2021. By comparison, under the Senate standard, utilities would only have to provide 7.4% to 10.7% of their electricity from renewable energy by 2021, according to UCS estimates.
UCS also opposes the Senate version of the Clean Energy Deployment Authority (CEDA), which would establish a fund to provide low cost loans for new energy technologies. Unlike the version in the House’s "American Clean Energy and Security Act," the Senate version has virtually no controls to protect taxpayers from defaulted loans, and would not ensure that the funds underwrite a diverse set of technologies.
"The entire fund could be invested in new nuclear reactors or coal plants instead of more cost-effective, low-carbon alternatives," Wentworth said. "The Senate should drop this version unless it adds taxpayer protections that are at least as strong as the House’s when the bill gets to the Senate floor."
Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope also opposed the bill. "Numerous changes to this bill during consideration by the committee have significantly undermined its integrity and ability to build the clean energy economy. Unfortunately, we must oppose this legislation in its current form. While it makes positive strides in setting new energy efficiency standards for our buildings and appliances, it falls far short of what President Obama has called for in order to repower America with renewable energy, create millions of new renewable energy jobs, and fight global warming."
Pope drew attention to measures in the bill that will allow federal funds to go towards liquid coal and tarsands fuels.
"We are also very dismayed that restrictions passed by Congress just two years ago in order to prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to purchase dirty, dangerous, destructive, and expensive liquid coal and tar sands fuels are partially repealed by this bill," Pope said. "Tar sands oil is the dirtiest oil on earth. Liquid coal is twice as polluting as standard fuels. They have no place in America’s new clean energy economy, and they certainly have no place in any serious clean energy legislation."
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) was kinder to the Senate bill, pointing out not only its weaknesses, but also areas where it improves on the House of Representatives’ current version of a similar bill.
These include provisions to strengthen manufacturing efficiency through research and development, training at Industrial Assessment Centers, and industrial efficiency grant programs. In addition, the Senate bill contains reforms to the ENERGY STAR program that are estimated to generate 170 trillion Btu’s in savings by 2020. In addition, the Senate bill includes a water and energy efficiency title, several studies, and long-term energy savings goals.
"We hope the House will consider improvements to its bill, building on the industrial and ENERGY STAR provisions in the Senate bill. And we urge the Senate to improve its bill, such as by including provisions from the House bill and also revising the Renewable Electricity Standard by increasing the overall target and including at least 10% electric efficiency savings by 2020,” stated ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel. “Ideally, Congress will take advantage of the best energy efficiency provisions in both bills,” he continued. “Energy efficiency is our cheapest energy source and both the Senate and House energy bills leave substantial cost-effective efficiency savings on the table.”
Details on ACEEE’s preliminary analysis of the Senate’s American Clean Energy Leadership Act can be found at the link below.