Senator working with Obama officials to flesh out 'clean energy standard'

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is working with the White House to iron out the details of a broad proposal to require that 80 percent of the country’s electricity come from “clean” sources.

President Obama outlined the proposal in his State of the Union address last week, but offered few details. He called for 80 percent of the country’s electricity to come from “clean” sources like wind, solar, natural gas, nuclear and coal with carbon capture technology.

Bingaman has been reluctant to endorse a so-called “clean energy standard,” instead underscoring his support for a “renewable electricity standard,” which focuses strictly on renewable energy.

But Bingaman’s remarks Monday suggest that he is willing to negotiate a broad energy standard that includes sources like nuclear and natural gas.

Bingaman, speaking at an event hosted by the think tank NDN, said he is working with the White House to develop a proposal that can pass the Senate. 

“The White House has asked us to work with them to see exactly how the provisions for this clean energy standard would be developed,” Bingaman said in remarks at NDN, formerly known as the New Democrat Network.

Bingaman warned, however, that it will be difficult to develop a proposal that can win bipartisan support, pointing to previous efforts in the committee to develop a renewable electricity standard as part of a broad energy bill.

“Perhaps no topic garnered more scrutiny during the 2009 markup in our committee than the renewable electricity standard,” he said.

“Obviously, there are a lot of details to be worked out,” he added. Bingaman identified a number of “key design issues” that must be dealt with, including “what counts as clean energy technology [and] second, how does the proposal account for existing clean energy sources.”

The White House is hoping that both environmentalists and industry groups can find something to love about the proposal. But its unclear how much support the proposal will receive.

The White House is working to sell the proposal, even though many of the key details — like what percentage of the standard must be met by each individual energy source — have yet to be worked out.

Republicans are already raising questions about the proposal, with some even going so far as to compare the proposal to cap-and-trade legislation.

During his remarks Monday, Bingaman laid out wide-ranging legislative priorities for the 112th Congress. Beyond passing a clean energy standard, Bingaman said he will focus his attention on proposals to promote energy efficiency, alternative vehicles, and financial and tax support for clean energy technology.

Bingaman also said he hopes to introduce legislation based on the oil spill response bill his committee passed last year. He met earlier Monday with Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement Director Michael Bromwich to discuss needed reforms to the way the government oversees offshore drilling.