Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is pushing for the Senate to restart discussions on comprehensive energy legislation, as part of a bipartisan “gang” of 20 senators led by Sens. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). To save time, let’s discuss each aspect of the proposed legislation, circa 2008, mentioned in the above link. I’ve divided them into three basic categories.
- It exists. Presidential candidates like to talk about “all of the above” plans for energy, but the tendency for most years has been to give one source the short shrift while proselytizing about the other. This one calls for boosting production of oil, natural gas, wind, solar, biofuels and even nuclear power.
- They’ve figured out how to sell it. Gen. Wesley Clark, who spoke about the need for a comprehensive energy plan at the same campaign event as Klobuchar, pointed out that wasted energy is an economic risk and dependence on foreign energy is a security risk.
- It calls for rolling back tax breaks for oil and gas companies, which, since those are proven industries, are not needed.
- More incentives for electric car manufacturing. While we didn’t know then how poorly those would turn out, it’s clear we can’t expect an influx of any auto manufacturing jobs until the general economic outlook improves. I also question the constitutionality of low-emitting car quotas. (But at least these are manufacturer-side ideas, not consumer-side.)
- The money saved from repealing oil-and-gas tax breaks would create new ones for green energy. I might forgive this if it included an exit strategy – that is, a commitment to draw down these breaks once green energy reached market saturation. Still, I’m not sold on growing an industry this way.
- Energy efficiency standards for electric utilities. Again, skeptical of the constitutionality, but this has worked fairly well on the state level.
- The nuclear power measures. Will these include new rules for storing nuclear waste? I wouldn’t feel comfortable moving forward without them.
- The congressional reaction. For each member of this gang, there are five who will latch onto their preferred energy sources at the expense of all the others, making the bill’s chances far less optimistic than Klobuchar thinks.