It’s official, Harry Reid says the next big piece of the legislative agenda is passing an energy bill.
He wants utilities to get 20% of their energy from renewables in the next decade and doesn’t expect off shore drilling discussions to pick up again, anytime soon.
AP: Reid said the energy legislation expected to be taken up in the coming weeks will be limited largely to promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency — priorities of the Obama White House.
It is expected to say nothing about offshore oil development, or address the growing debate over whether the federal government should wield greater power in locating high-voltage transmission lines — an area of conflict between Washington and the states.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is crafting a national requirement for utilities to use renewable energy to generate electricity — at least 4 per cent within two years, rising to a minimum of 20 per cent over the following decade.
Reid said he favours a 20 per cent renewable standard for utilities, but added, “We’ll get by with what we can.”
Many states already have requirements for utilities to use renewable energy, but attempts in Congress to establish a national mandate have fallen short repeatedly because of regional divisions. Lawmakers from the Southeast particularly have argued that utilities in their area would be hard pressed to meet a federal standard because they lack wind or solar energy resources.
Reid said he also favours some additional tax incentives aimed at spurring energy efficiency, especially for construction of more energy efficient buildings.
“We’ve got to give people incentives to build better buildings and also do something about the buildings that are there right now,” said Reid.
But Reid said he doesn’t expect the Senate to tackle the issue of offshore oil drilling again.
While Congress last fall ended a drilling moratorium that covered 85 per cent of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf, Reid said he’s convinced that Obama’s Interior Department will protect those areas where drilling shouldn’t be allowed..