The "Solar Roadmap" bill introduced by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona (see our profile of Giffords and the bill) passed a House committee today and is headed for a vote in the full House.
On Monday, I traveled with Rep. Giffords as she toured solar installations at Arizona State University in Tempe. While talking about the Roadmap, HR 3585, Giffords stressed that it is a way to guide the development of solar power efficiently and effectively—but without picking winners and losers among competing technologies.
“Seventy-five percent of grants from the DOE will go through the Solar Roadmap Committee,” she said. “The panel members are there to ensure that the money is invested wisely.”
The 11-member committee will be comprised of a wide variety of experts from industry, national laboratories, academia, federal agencies and relevant state and local entities.
During the markup, I was surprised to hear several Republican members speak passionately about the need to adopt solar power. I'm not sure how that sentiment will translate into action on the full House floor, where GOP leaders have been successful at ramming the party line down members' throats.
Still it was a fascinating debate in committee.
A low spot, followed by a high one. Low: When Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) likened the solar roadmap committee to Soviet central planning. The high spot came immediately afterwards when another Congressman rapped Rohranbacher's knuckles for his Cold War rhetoric. The "rapper" was another Republican—Rep. Vernon Ehlers of Michigan.
It was a good day for solar—let's hope it's the first of many.
Osha Gray Davidson is a contributing blogger at Mother Jones and publisher of The Phoenix Sun, an online news service reporting on solar energy. He tweets @thephoenixsun.