If An Energy Bill Drops In The Senate But Everyone Knows It Won’t Pass, Does It Make A Sound?
This week, Senate Democrats unveiled an energy bill that would attempt to move America to a low-carbon future. But if the bill has zero chance of being passed in a chamber controlled by Republicans, does it matter?
“Today’s announcement should send a clear signal that it is a top priority for Senate Democrats to invest in our nation’s energy future and address climate change before it’s too late,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) at a Tuesday press conference. The legislation “is a technology driven pathway to a clean energy future,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) who sponsored the bill, dubbed the “American Energy Innovation Act of 2015.”
Though it would not set a price on carbon emissions, like the failed cap-and-trade bill from five years ago, her bill does contain many provisions intended to accelerate the shift to a low-carbon economy, and sets a more ambitious carbon target than the White House.
It would implement a “carbon savings goal” making it the policy of the United States “to use appropriate authorities and available technologies to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the United States by not less than 2 percent per year on average through 2025.” It would repeal some fossil fuel subsidies and invest in clean energy technology through tax incentives and grant programs. It would, as Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) explained at the press conference, provide incentives, but no penalties. It would boost community solar projects and access to solar energy for low-income families. It would help the grid and manufacturers modernize their infrastructure, making it cheaper and more efficient. It would “create a federal Energy Efficiency Resource Standard, which would save consumers $150 billion over the next 15 years, and support research and development on smart buildings.”
“This bill would tap America’s abundant clean energy potential to significantly reduce climate pollution while saving people money,” said Elizabeth Thompson, president of EDFAction in a statement.
But it’s not going anywhere. With the increasingly likely possibility the the government will be unable to keep the lights on due to congressional conservatives’ opposition to funding women’s health centers, the prospect of the Senate Democrats even getting a climate bill out of committee is dire.
In fact, there is no guarantee that the bipartisan but Republican-led energy bill that does not directly deal with climate change or renewable energy will see a floor vote either. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was able to get it passed out of her energy committee with a vote of 18-4. The Senate has not passed a comprehensive energy bill in eight years.