U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has unveiled the Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act, which focuses on offshore drilling liability and does not contain a national renewable electricity standard (RES).
‘The Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Accountability Act would ensure that BP pays to clean up its mess,’ the bill's introduction states, according to a draft posted online by The Atlantic. ‘Second, it would invest in Home Star, a bipartisan energy efficiency program that lowers consumers' energy costs and create jobs.
‘Third, it would protect the environment by investing in the Land and Water Conservation Fund,’ the bill continues. ‘Fourth, it would reduce our dependence on oil by making investments in vehicles that run on electricity and natural gas. Finally, it would increase the amount that oil companies are required to pay into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.’
Among the bill's provisions, the removal of the current $75 million liability cap on offshore oil companies is likely to draw the most opposition, the New York Times says.
However, for the renewable energy industry, the bill's most crucial point of contention is its lack of RES. Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, said the association will continue to push for the inclusion of an RES.
Bode noted that Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., has expressed support for an RES, demonstrating its bipartisan appeal.
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., told the New York Times that, in total, approximately 62 senators support a 15% by 2020 RES. ‘It seems to me that would be logical to include that [RES] in the energy bill that was going to be brought to the floor,’ he said. ‘I hope maybe there's a way to be found to do that.’
Reid is expected to introduce debate on the bill later this week and convene a vote to proceed next week, according to the New York Times. Amendments to the bill – such as including an RES – may or may not be allowed, depending on his decision after the vote.
In a briefing yesterday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs indicated that a stronger climate-change bill may eventually be passed once the Senate's version of the bill is reconciled with the House's energy legislation.
‘The House passed a very strong and very comprehensive energy bill last year,’ Gibbs said, according to a transcript posted by the White House. ‘The Senate is going to take up a version that is more scaled down but still has some important aspectsâ�¦ But I don't think that closes the door – once a bill passes, each House doesn't close the door to having some sort of conference.’
SOURCES: New York Times, The Atlantic, White House, American Wind Energy Association