ENERGY BILL: FUELED BUT BLOCKED
Auto industry leaders are doing the old “Woe is me!” spin, pleading that if they have to meet the (relatively modest) new CAFÉ standards for vehicle fleet mileage, at least California and other states should drop their lawsuits demanding lower vehicle emissions.
It’s almost laughable to see Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Executive Chairman Bill Ford mock-courageously declare they “…have to do it…” “…no matter what the size…” of the new CAFÉ standards (agreed to November 30 by House and Senate leaders).
It's not like it would be impossible to do a little better. (click to enlarge)
Still, it will be delicious to see the big coal-burning, greenhouse gas-emitting utilities like Southern Company doing the same act when congressional leaders someday finally get around to facing their duty and passing a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) requiring utilities to obtain a significant percentage of their electricity from renewable sources.
If the American Wind Energy Association can do anything about it (see WIND ENERGY ASKS PUBLIC TO PUSH CONGRESS ON BILL below) the RES will be part of the 2007 legislation. Back the effort at: POWER OF WIND
But the plight of the RES is only one element in a scenario reminiscent of the poker night sequences in Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple.” Here are the players: The Bush White House is represented by Al Hubbard, director, National Economic Council; Democratic leadership is represented by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). The auto industry is represented at the table by Congressman John Dingell (D-Mich) and Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich). The utility industry is represented by many southeastern conservatives, here by Senator Pete Domenici (R.-NM) and Congressman Joe Barton, (R-TX).
Hubbard sits in, deals and announces President Bush wants lower mileage standards but bigger ethanol and biofuels requirements or he will veto.
Dingell and Levin study their hands and mention that actually the auto industry can live with the mileage standards, “…though it will be tough,” they grimace melodramatically and then ask for potato chips and beer.
Pelosi smiles about the cards she is holding and says she can give a little on the mileage standards but has to have an RES, then confidently predicts she can push it through the House. She offers to let Domenici count efficiency measures as part of his renewable electricity.
Domenici looks up from his cards, asks Pelosi why Reid hasn’t arrived at the game and says the RES is a deal breaker. "But maybe I can live with incentives for renewables if I can get guarantees for nuclear energy loans."
Barton asks Hubbard to bring him a baloney sandwich and says renewables aren’t energy at all, not even ethanol and biofuels. "I cannot allow my oil and gas incentives to get spread around in some Democrat 'no energy' plan."
Pelosi demands incentives for New Energy or she will put through an RES and dare the Senate to reject it and dare Bush to veto it.
Hubbard smiles and says Bush will.
Reid arrives (in the role of Felix Unger), makes strange sounds from his nose because of allergies, and moans that Bush won’t have to veto because the fillibuster-proof 60 Senate votes necessary to beat the fossil fuel lobby aren't there. "Half the Senate Democrats are too busy campaigning for President to vote," he says. "And the other half are at the climate change summit in Bali with Al Gore." Suddenly, Reid realizes Pelosi has made a side deal with Dingell and Levin on mileage standards and left to pass the RES in the House.
"I can't live with this!" Reid exclaims and, threatening to jump, goes to the window - but throws out his back trying to open it. The remaining players cash in their chips and disperse while Reid carefully lays down on the floor and starts discussing global warming with Hubbard, who yawns.
Funny enough, but hanging in the balance are 3 crucial matters: (1) The first improvement in auto mileage requirements in 32 years; (2) Incentives for New Energy that could spur growth just where America needs it the most; and (3) Demands that the fossil fuel industries give up some of American taxpayers’ underwriting of the problem (greenhouse gas emissions, toxic pollution and war funding) so taxpayers can begin underwriting the solution (New Energy).
25 states have a Renewable Electricity Standard, or RES (formerly called a Renewable Portfolio Standard, RPS) but a national standard would bring the other half of the country along and create a single set of rules for New Energy providers to work with, streamlining the boom. (click to enlarge)
Roadblocks Remain to Energy Bill; Fuel-Economy Deal Aside, Sticking Points Could Sink Comprehensive Measure
John J. Fialka and Greg Hitt, December 3, 2007 (Wall Street Journal)
Rocky road ahead for enrgy bill in U.S. Congress
Chris Baltimore, December 3, 2007 (Reuters)
Bush threatens to veto energy bill
Justin Hyde, December 3, 2007 (Detroit Free Press)
CEO: Ford Can Handle Tougher Fuel Rules
December 3, 2007 (AP via NY Times)
Al Hubbard, director, White House National Economic Council; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Congressman John Dingell (D-Mich), Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich), Senator Pete Domenici (R.-NM), Congressman Joe Barton, (R-TX)
As with so many crucial legislative matters, there may be no way out of the multifaceted stalemate between congressional leaders and the Republican minority backed by the Bush Whitehouse.
The best rumors are that Congress will act this week, the House first and then the Senate. Pelosi has promised action by Christmas. Some say to expect no action.
If the players cannot craft an energy bill compromise, say insiders, the CAFÉ standards may end up standing alone. Other measures could be attached to the farm bill or other spending legislation.
We will know soon. (click to enlarge)
- Hubbard’s October letter stated White House expectations: ENERGY BILL: WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE WANTS. But in a democracy the other side gets to have a say, too.
- Democrats in the Senate have fought many years for this new CAFÉ standard.
- There seems to be a huge chasm between the majority of Americans’ demand for New Energy incentives (see POLL: 62% WANT NEW ENERGY and conservative fossil fuel industry opposition to it.
- Perhaps most sadly of all is that the opposition to New Energy is based on its supposed economic drawbacks while many reports like the Capturing the Energy Opportunity leave little doubt that developing New Energy would do for the US in the 21st Century what the digital revolution did for it in the 90s.
- Hubbard, for the White House: “Based on the limited information we have received, it seems the provisions under discussion would not satisfy [Whitehouse] criteria…In fact, it appears Congress may intend to produce a bill the president cannot sign.”
- Senate Majority Leader Reid: “I think yes, we do have the votes…But time will tell.”
- Dana Perino, White House press secretary: "We'd like to get to an agreement with the Hill, but until we see details we're skeptical…"