Sometimes Bad is Bad: The New Energy Bill

We hosted a lively conference call this afternoon with several members of the Energy Collective, our private group that advises us on our site and how we cover energy and climate issues. (The online group has been around for two years, and includes our bloggers as well as a few other people we like.)

The participants all agreed that the bill was, to use Scott Sklar’s word, “symbolic,” but that was about it – after all that time and effort, the Congress and the President had to have something. And as for a bill this year that will address the gaps, well, as we say here in New Jersey, fuggedaboutit.

Scott also pointed out that the new CAFE standards, the one thing with which environmentalists can console themselves , actually has a provision for light trucks that is no better than the current standard. The big winner is the nuclear power plant builders: billions for nuclear, which die-hard renewables supporters are furious about. In fact, of the $85 billion in authorizations, only $850 million is going into renewable fuels.

Of course, the big winners are the producers of ethanol. The environmental lobby were able to include a provision that 20% of the ethanol mix has to come from cellulosic sources, but that goal does not need to be reached until 2010 2020, whereas the law requires that the ethanol mix climb to 9% this year from its current 5% standard, a nearly 100% jump in a single year.

One of our panels pointed out that the bill should effectively end the move to liquification of coal, a seeming departure from the energy independence objective, since there will be neither funding nor mandates to support it in this bill.

But all good boys and girls will have something to do with their lumps of coal from their holiday stockings. The utilities were not asked to expand their use of renewables beyond the current state mandates, which themselves may be over-ruled by the EPA, and there’s $125 million in the bill for clean coal technology. Further, there’s another $240 million for carbon sequestration technology, presumably also for coal.

The consensus: Geoff Styles of the EnergyOutlook blog summed it up for everyone: after all the sound and fury, we have a bill, but not an energy policy.

Maybe next year. And yes, I’ve learned to start using 2008 on my checkbook.

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