Friday, May 15, 2009

Renewable Electricity Standard (RES)(S.433 & H.R.890):
A Modest Proposal
To Join The Rest of the Planet In The 21st Century

The members of Congress who found the courage to introduce landmark energy bills such as The Renewable Electricity Standard (RES)(S.433 in the Senate and H.R.890 in the House) should be cheered. These are honorable initiatives to move this country into the realm of 21st century electricity generation technology, and away from toxic coal, of which we burn about 2.85 million short tons per day. (If you don't think that's a lot, watch the Frontline program "Heat.")

This bill would bring U.S. electricity generation from renewable sources (primarily wind and biomass gas) up to 25% of consumption by 2025. Given the state of technology, and plentiful wind resources, this isn't much of challenge. And it will only reduce coal consumption by 8 to 11 percent (depending on whether or not states get various exemptions). Further, additional costs to power plant operators imposed by this bill are minimized when combined with the effects of greenhouse gas cap & trade provisions of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) and a proposed energy efficiency resource standard.

What this bill will do is reduce growth of coal consumption, and the toxic side effects of it: mercury and radioactive isotopes in the air, leaching fly ash on the ground, and decapitated mountains in our verdant Appalachians. It will create solid, unionized manufacturing, installation and maintenance jobs that can't be outsourced. And, it will slow global warming -- not enough -- but it's a start.

And, it won't cost ratepayers much: somewhere between 2.7 and 2.9 percent tacked on to their monthly bills. (Yes, it's true, new power lines may need to be constructed from windy places to the consumers, but new coal plants, and the added power line capacity that goes with them will cost money, too. So, upgrading the grid is not an excuse for not doing this.)

Tell your representatives to support this bill (along with the American Clean Energy and Security Act), and tell your neighbors it's a good thing that won't cost 'em a bundle.

I got my numbers from the Energy Information Administration, in the Executive Summary of the report: Impacts of a 25-Percent Renewable Electricity Standard as Proposed in the American Clean Energy and Security Act Discussion Draft

Incidentally, you can search for any Congressional bill at the Thomas Library of Congress

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