Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) last week introduced what clean energy advocates had hoped would be energy legislation that put a price on carbon. But a so-called cap-and-trade energy bill, Reid said, would garner too few votes to pass.
Instead, the bill mainly addresses the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill. It carries just a few energy-related provisions that encourage electric and natural-gas-fueled vehicles and provide funds for residential energy-efficiency renovations.
Reid’s bill would have little if any impact on greenhouse gas emissions because it both fails to put a price on carbon and lacks provisions to support development of renewable energy. The legislation is a far cry from climate-change legislation that passed the House of Representatives a year ago or from energy provisions that had been discussed over the past year in the Senate.
“The simple matter is I did it because I had to,” Reid says, referring to the introduction of the watered-down energy bill. “I couldn’t get the votes to do what we wanted, which was to price carbon.”
Reid has also been a big supporter of solar and wind energy, which is a growing industry in his state of Nevada, but he told reporters during a teleconference last week that a nationwide renewable energy standard could not get the 60 votes needed to clear the Senate.
Reid hopes that the oil-spill legislation he introduced will pass in the Senate before the start of the congressional recess on Aug. 9. But even that may not be possible because nearly all Republicans and a handful of Democrats oppose it.
The House has its own oil-spill-related bill, H.R. 3534, and debate was getting under way there late last week.
Both bills would remove a cap on oil-spill liability as well as require better oil-spill-response plans. They would also codify the restructuring of the new Department of Interior agency tasked with drilling oversight.
Republicans oppose the bills, arguing that the lack of a liability cap would hurt small oil drillers. They have their own draft bill, which they hope to bring to a vote on the Senate floor.