By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, March 21 – Responding to President Obama's proposed Clean Energy Standard (CES) to require 80% of U.S. electricity from clean energy by 2035, Senate Energy Committee Chair Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, issued a list of 42 questions Monday. They're looking for detailed answers by Monday, April 11 to help their committee decide whether a CES makes both economic and environmental sense.

Bingaman and Murkowski say their white paper list of questions is designed “to solicit input from a broad range of interested parties, to facilitate discussion, and to ascertain whether or not consensus can be achieved.” The paper notes that currently the U.S. gets 20% of its electricity from nuclear; 10% from renewable energy sources including hydropower, wind, solar, geothermal and biomass; 25% from natural gas; and 45% from coal power plants. If clean energy were defined as renewable and nuclear energy only, then the U.S. would be getting 30% of its electricity from clean sources. If efficient natural gas were included as well and given “half credits” as proposed in the President's CES plan, then the U.S. would be getting some 40% of its electricity from clean sources. In this second case, the President's plan would call for doubling clean energy's share by 2035. For the same 2010-2035 period, the federal Energy Information Administration expects U.S. electricity demand to grow about 20%.

Among the Bingman/Murkowski questions going out today for public comment:

  • How should “clean energy” be defined?
  • “Should the definition of 'clean energy' account only for the greenhouse gas emissions of electric generation, or should other environmental issues be accounted for (e.g. particulate matter from biomass combustion, spent fuel from nuclear power, or land use changes for solar panels or wind, etc.).”
  • “What are the tradeoffs between crediting all existing clean technologies versus only allowing new and incremental upgrades to quality for credits?”
  • “Should there be a banking and/or borrowing system available for credits and, if so, for how long?”
  • “What are the anticipated effects on state and regional electricity prices . . . What are the anticipated net economic effects by region?'
  • “How much new transmission will be needed . . .and how should those transmission costs be allocated?
  • “Are there specific supporting policy options that should be considered for coal, nuclear, natural gas, renewable energy, and efficiency?”

For the full six-page text of the white paper, along with instructions and forms for submitting your responses, click HERE. All responses must be in the correct MS Word format and submitted by 5 p.m. Monday, April 11.

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