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Major Climate and Energy Bill This Year? Don’t Bet On It

It wasn’t that long ago when candidate Obama wooed us with pledges to get the country on track with an aggressive renewable energy program and serious carbon emissions controls. Times have changed. Now, we don’t think anyone really expects to see an extensive climate and energy bill from Congress this year. At best, advocates are hoping for more legislative support for renewable energy production, a renewable energy standard and maybe more dough for the Smart Grid. So what happened? Keep reading.

High hopes for a sweeping climate and energy bill coming out of Congress this year are giving way to hopes that at least some key pieces of clean energy legislation still have a chance to squeak through the lumbering legislative process.

To a large degree, it’s the result of bad timing. Congress continues to wrestle with the economy. The free-for-all wrestling match that is the health care debate continues. And… mid-term elections are coming in November. The conventional wisdom in Washington is that if legislation doesn’t get passed by Memorial Day, it’s pretty much a dead issue until after the elections.

There’s another angle to the elections issue that Renewable Energy World nailed squarely: Democrats have generally been strong supporters of energy and climate legislation. If the mid-term elections result in a gain for Republicans, Democrats will have lost some of their clout.

The online publication quoted Chris Stimpson, executive campaigner for Solar Nation, as saying it’s more realistic to expect specific renewable energy programs, a renewable energy standard and more financial support for the Smart Grid to make it through the legislative process. Solar Nation is a lobbying group operated by the American Solar Energy Society.

But some other advocates don’t like the piecemeal approach. They see this year as their only chance for effective, comprehensive climate change legislation, and see the renewable segment as only one piece of a larger initiative to cut carbon emissions.

Considering the current legislative environment, not to mention the uproar over cap and trade, the pessimists have a point.

And of course, the failure of the Copenhagen climate conference did nothing to keep energy issues in the forefront here at home.