Bingaman opposes Graham’s push to alter renewables mandate

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) isn’t backing away from his opposition to turning a proposed renewable electricity mandate into a broader “clean energy standard” that gives credit to nuclear power and low-emissions coal.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has authored a draft “clean energy standard” plan, and has provided his proposal to Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) as the trio tries to craft a compromise climate and energy bill.

Bingaman’s committee approved a bill last June that would require many utilities to supply escalating percentages of their electricity from sources like wind and solar power. Such a “renewable electricity standard” has long been a pillar of Democratic climate and energy plans.

Bingaman has never liked the notion of a “clean” standard that could be met with renewables but also new nuclear power plants and coal (if the coal plant traps and sequesters carbon emissions), an idea Republicans have floated in recent years.

And he still doesn’t, even though one of the three senators trying to salvage climate and energy legislation this year is pushing the idea.

“Sen. Bingaman has not changed his mind,” Bingaman spokesman Bill Wicker said in an e-mail. “While he has consistently supported nuclear power and clean coal technology, he realizes that these energy sources are not renewable.

“Committee staff has seen the draft clean energy standard that is making the rounds. That draft does not appear to be much different than similar proposals which both ENR and the full Senate failed to embrace in at least two previous Congresses,” Wicker added.

The bill that Bingaman’s committee approved would require utilities to provide 15 percent of their power from renewables by 2021, although about a fourth of the requirement could be met with energy efficiency programs.

Graham’s draft plan would require utilities to provide 20 percent of their power from “clean” sources by 2020, and 25 percent by 2025.