Gibbs plugs renewable electricity standard

Gibbs’s remarks come a day after Obama acknowledged that cap-and-trade legislation that passed the House last year will remain on ice for years after failing to advance in the Senate.

Obama — in his first remarks since the GOP reclaimed the House and made Senate gains on Election Day — listed natural gas development, nuclear power and electric cars as areas where the parties could advance energy policy.

But renewables mandates, while enjoying some GOP buy-in, are far more controversial in Republican circles than nuclear power and natural gas, which have strong GOP support.

The House approved an RES as part of a broad Democratic energy bill in 2007, and it was also included in the sweeping climate and energy bill the House narrowly approved last year. But RES plans have stalled in the Senate.

Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and retiring Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) are seeking lame-duck action on an RES that would require utilities to supply 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2021, although about a fourth of the mandate could be met with energy efficiency measures.

They count a handful of Republicans — Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Susan Collins (Maine) and John Ensign (Nev.) — among the measure’s 30-plus co-sponsors. But many Republicans oppose renewables mandates.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has pushed for an alternative that would give credit to nuclear power and to electricity from coal plants that trap and store carbon emissions — a technology that has not been commercially deployed by power companies.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said a renewables bill lacks enough votes, although in late August he appeared to soften his reluctance to putting the measure in the lame-duck session mix.