Wednesday, July 09, 2008

25 x 25 : Obama Proposes Federal Renewable Portfolio Standard

Part of the reason I started focusing on politics at the state level was that after the election in 2004, I had given up all hope on anything good coming out of Washington for the foreseeable future. Then I discovered just how bad things were here in Michigan. Part of me had a vague understanding that Republicans were obstructing the governor at every turn - I just didn't realize how deep the rabbit hole went. After two years of watching these guys play their partisan games, now I know, oh how I know, and I find I'm starting to look towards Washington once again. Take hope where you can find it, I guess.

If we can't get the Michigan Legislature to pass a strong renewable portfolio standard - and the 10% proposed by the House Democrats is a start, but not strong enough according to some experts - then perhaps an Obama presidency will have to do it for us. From Obama's energy page-

Require 25 Percent of Renewable Electricity by 2025: Obama will establish a 25 percent federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to require that 25 percent of electricity consumed in the U.S. is derived from clean, sustainable energy sources, like solar, wind and geothermal by 2025.

Looking at the Pew Center US map of renewable standards that are already in place at the state level, that figure is very realistic. Some states have already set that goal or something very close to it, others, such as Maine, are already exceeding it by a wide margin.

Renewable energy has widespread bipartisan support as well; too bad our Senate Republicans seem intent on ignoring that fact. New survey out by Kelton Research has some astonishing numbers; they focus on solar, but found support for other renewables as well.

A vast majority of Americans, across all political parties, overwhelmingly support development and funding of solar energy. Ninety-one percent of Republicans, 97 percent of Democrats and 98 percent of Independents agree that developing solar power is vital to the United States.

These and other findings were reported today in the SCHOTT Solar Barometer(TM), a nationally representative survey conducted by the independent polling firm, Kelton Research.

The survey revealed that 77 percent of Americans feel that the development of solar power, and other renewable energy sources, should be a major priority of the federal government. Independent voters felt strongest about this, compared to voters in other political parties, with 86 percent of Independents supporting the statement.

When asked which one energy source they would support if they were President, 41 percent of Americans picked solar. Solar and wind together were favored nearly 20 times more than coal (3 percent).

People want this to happen. Why doesn't our Senate listen? And quite frankly, I'm not sure what to make of the wimpy response from the House Dems. Although Dillon has said the Senate version is unacceptable as is, there seems to be entirely too much coddling of Republicans going on here.

“We are glad to see that the Senate was able to make progress in passing something, but it's not the type of progress, especially in terms of the RPS, that we would have liked to have seen,” said Greg Bird, press secretary to House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township. “We'll continue to work with the Senate and the administration to find something that I think we can all find acceptable.”

Yes, that’s nice, but I tend to like Sen. Liz Brater's version better.

"Moving to 7 percent is rather disappointing," said Sen. Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor). "It's paltry. It's exceedingly weak. Can we set our standards any lower?"

Perhaps House Dems don't want to step on toes so they can get something done on this soon, but this seems like the perfect opportunity to point out that (some) Republicans in this state are acting under the direction of, oh, let's just say it- Dick DeVos, who had this to say in a recent e-mail-

Michigan can't afford to waste time or energy chasing the latest trendy idea. We need to stay grounded on scientific fact and economic reality with a dose of Midwestern common sense. For example, we have been hearing lately that revving up the renewable energy industry is the key to turning Michigan's economy around. What I would argue is just the opposite - turning Michigan's business environment around is the key to revving up the renewable energy industry.

This is the only reason I can see why Senate Republicans would hold us back while the rest of the country moves forward. The only one. Every single piece of evidence out there points out that a strong renewable standard is the way to go.

I hope our Legislature gets this through this year, at least for a start. It would be a shame if Michigan were to lose even more time waiting out the election - and if we wait until it does become a federal standard, we lose the advantage we would have if we acted on this now.