Bring On The Energy Filibuster

Bill Scher

A majority of the Senate supports adding a provision to the Senate energy bill now under consideration that would require that 15 percent of our nation’s electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2020 — an increase from the current 2.4 percent, and a significant step, if only a step, towards building a clean energy future.

But Senate conservatives are blocking its passage with a filibuster, as the provision lacks the support of 60 senators needed to overcome the procedural tactic.

Well, that’s not quite right.

The conservative minority is merely threatening a filibuster. Backers of renewable energy let these conservatives off the hook and pulled the amendment off the Senate floor before any vote, in hopes of compromising with the obstructionists. (Never mind that a 15 percent percent requirement is already a compromise from the 20 percent standard clean energy advocates generally support.)

This looks to be the same accommodationist strategy that has stunted the new Congress. In trying to nobly pursue bipartisan compromise legislation with conservatives who disrespect the public will, little has been accomplished.

But while Congress’ approval rating has plummeted to 23 percent, support for requiring more electricity to come from renewable sources is at 65 percent.

Instead of doing the same accommodationist things that have brought down Congress’ numbers to 23 percent, perhaps a new tactic is in order to impress those 65 percent.

Right now, this renewable energy battle is playing out under the radar, with minimal media coverage and public awareness. (The only pushback I’ve seen to the conservative mischief is from Sen. John Kerry, blogging at Gristmill.)

But putting the clean electricity provision on the floor, and forcing conservatives to keep up a sustained filibuster would raise the issue’s profile and focus the nation’s attention.

Instead of getting off the hook, conservatives would have to take the heat: explain to the voters why they are defending dirty energy, preventing the creation of clean energy jobs, and failing to act on global warming.

And then we would see how long they last.

Find additional background on renewable electricity standards from the Apollo Alliance, Union of Concerned Scientists, Save Our Environment and Political Cortex  More energy bill blogging at the Campaign for America’s Future blog.

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