US Senate energy chief backs Obama's call for more renewables
By Cathy Cash - January 26, 2011
US Senate Energy and Environment Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman Wednesday said he supports President Barack Obama's call for the country to generate 80% of its electricity from "clean energy sources" by 2035.
"I am encouraged by the president's continuing commitment to clean energy," Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat, who has long supported a 20% national renewable energy standard, said in a statement after Obama unveiled his plan in Tuesday's State of the Union address to Congress.
"Congress has a real opportunity to work together on bipartisan legislation to achieve his goals," Bingaman said. "I look forward to working with my colleagues and the president on this."
Renewable energy supporters also welcomed the president's plan. "President Obama acknowledged the need for bipartisan action and established a clean energy future as a key issue for congressional action in 2011 and for American competitiveness and economic growth in the long term," said Lisa Jacobson, president Business Council for Sustainable Energy.
Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, added that her organization is "pleased to see the possibility of the first predictable long-term federal policy toward renewable energy."
"But of course we'll need to make sure the policy really deploys the renewable energy Americans want in the near term, as well as the long term," she said. Bode also applauded Obama's idea of shifting federal subsidies from oil and natural gas development to renewables.
"Wind energy can deliver right now on its promise to deliver new electricity to Americans more affordably than any other energy source, if we have a level playing field to compete with the permanent entitlements that fossil fuels have enjoyed for over 90 years," she said.
Scott Segal, a partner at Bracewell & Giuliani, which represents coal-fired energy companies, said he found the president's speech "interesting because he mention[ed] a wide range of clean technologies, including coal that could meet his clean energy standard."
"That is a positive development and underscores the notion that traditional fuels, including coal, can be utilized in an environmentally-friendly way," Segal said. But important details are missing, he said, including what energy sources will qualify as "clean" and in what proportions.
In announcing the 80% by 2035 goal in his nationally televised speech, Obama said "[s]ome folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all -- and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen."
But environmental organizations were quick to reject the idea of "clean coal" and nuclear power as part of the nation's future low-emission energy mix.
"President Obama's vision for clean energy is commendable, but we need to commit to truly clean energy like solar, wind and energy efficiency, which don't threaten our public health or our environment," Nathan Wilcox, global warming program director for Environment America said. "So-called 'clean coal' and nuclear power in fact, create more pollution and put our environment and our health at risk."
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