The Bingaman Clean Energy Standard: Let the Conversation Begin

This is the first blog post in a multi-part series on the Bingaman Clean Energy Standard. Read part 2.

When the idea of a “clean energy standard” (CES) was first proposed a couple of years ago, it was viewed as the Republican alternative to both a renewable energy standard and a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program. Many Republicans favored this approach because it included not just renewable energy, but also traditional Republican priorities such as nuclear power, hydropower, and clean coal.

Following the defeat of cap-and-trade legislation, President Obama began to see merit in this approach too. He proposed a Clean Energy Standard in his State of the Union in 2011 and again this year.

In a few days, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is expected to introduce a CES bill. If it is anything like the long line of earlier Bingaman bills, it will be a thoughtful balance of economic, energy, and environmental objectives, and – to those of us who read a lot of legislation – beautifully written.

The bill is not likely to go anywhere anytime soon. With the 112th Congress (2011-2012) gridlocked, earlier Republican proponents of a CES appear to have lost their enthusiasm for the idea, and even Bingaman has said he does not expect to move the bill out of his committee before the end of the year – after which he will be retiring.

So why bother introducing the bill at all? Because it can begin a conversation. Even when Congress is in a mood to legislate, it takes time for a new idea to be debated, analyzed and refined.  If we start working through CES issues now, we can have a fleshed-out, well-considered proposal awaiting a future Congress – maybe the next one, or the one after that – that may be ready to address the problems tackled by a CES. The Bingaman bill will give us a great place to start.

To learn more about a CES, check out our CES resource page. For more on the basics of a CES, listen to our Clean Energy Standard 101 podcast.

Manik Roy is Vice President for Strategic Outreach at C2ES