The Little RES That Could


A bill to enact a federal mandate for renewable electricity is gathering steam in the Senate. And unlike many issues in Washington these days, the measure is gaining support on both sides of the aisle. On Thursday, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) became the latest Republican to back a renewable electricity standard (RES).

Grassley joins John Ensign (Nev.), Susan Collins (Maine), and Sam Brownback (Kan.) among Republican co-sponsors of the bill. Twenty-one Democrats have also signed on.

The bill would require utilities to draw 3 percent of electricity from renewable sources starting in 2012. By 2021, that requirement scales up to 15 percent. While this RES is lower than the House-passed measure and than the goal renewables energy advocates had hoped for, it is likely the most attainable energy measure this year. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), the lead sponsor of the bill, said he planned to gather 60 votes for the measure before encouraging Majority Leader Harry Reid to hold a vote, most likely in a lame-duck session post-election. So far he’s 25 votes closer to that goal.

While Reid is supportive of an RES, his office offered a more realistic take on its chances of the measure getting on the ever-growing to-do list. A leadership aide sent along this statement:

Senator Reid strongly supports a national renewable electricity standard. But, there is very limited time before the October recess and probably even during the lame duck, so the proponents of a stand-alone RES will need to demonstrate they have 60 votes for swift floor action before floor consideration could be scheduled.

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.