What are the broader implications of new legislation that creates a national clean-energy standard?
Retiring Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., introduced a measure last week that requires utilities to generate an increasing amount of the country's electricity through the use of renewable energy such as wind and solar power. It also calls for the use of other relatively clean and carbon-neutral sources, like natural gas, nuclear power and even "clean coal" technology, to capture carbon emissions from dirty coal-burning power plants. The so-called carbon capture and sequestration technology is not yet commercially viable but has been shown in a handful of demonstration projects to significantly reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from coal-fired plants.
Bingaman's bill is unlikely to gain any traction in a Congress focused mostly on election-year politics. But Bingaman says he wants his measure--which is expected to be the last major bill he authors before he retires at the end of this year--to start a conversation about how the country can shift to cleaner sources of energy.
What parts of Bingaman's proposal have merit and what parts should be changed? Could this bill lay the foundation for broader energy and climate-change legislation in another Congress? Should Washington instead focus chiefly on high gasoline prices and other pressing economic concerns that worry voters most?