Washington, D.C. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid released details of a newly drafted energy bill yesterday. The bill is more notable for what’s not in it, than what is in it.
After a strong push by the renewable energy industry – lead by the wind industry – the latest Senate bill does not include a national target for renewable energy. It also excludes an extension of incentives like the production tax credit (which expires at the end of next year) and the Treasury grant program (which expires at the end of this year). Along with a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), both of those items are on the top of the priority list for industry advocates.
The bill sets aside $15 billion for energy efficiency programs, water conservation and new transportation technologies based on natural gas and electricity. The bill also raises the liability cap on offshore oil drillers if they spill oil. That provision addresses a politically-charged issue, but does little to help the grow wind, solar, geothermal, hydro and biomass technologies that can help shift the energy equation, say industry groups.
Just yesterday, the American Wind Energy Association released figures showing that Q2 wind figures had dropped 71% from the same time period in 2009. The poor economy, the lack of a national RES, and the uncertainty around the Treasury grant program have all been factors.
“We need these passed. Otherwise, we risk severely hurting this industry,” said AWEA CEO Denise Bode in a conference call yesterday.
As industry and environmental groups have pushed for an increasingly-unpopular comprehensive climate bill, the opportunity to pass these smaller programs has been diminished. With fall mid-term elections coming up, the window for any action on such items has been virtually closed.