A Sensible Energy Alternative

In 12-plus years of writing stories, commentaries, press releases and more for the Chamber and BizVoice magazine after 13 years in the newspaper business (I started very, very young), I feel I have a pretty good understanding of a number of topics. I’m not sure, however, that energy/environmental issues always fall into that category.

It usually takes a good session with Chamber expert Vince Griffin to enhance my knowledge and understanding. But Vince is off on a well-earned vacation so I’ll have to go this one alone in saying that legislation introduced in Congress on Wednesday seems to have, in technical terms, a whole heck of a lot of common sense. And you seemingly can’t often say that today.

The authors are senators John (Jay) Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio). Opinions may vary on the performances of one or both, but they want to provide incentives for carbon capture and storage. Their states, like Indiana, generate the vast majority of their electricity from coal. It’s a different approach from the controversial cap and trade or other versions of reducing carbon emissions.

More on that in a minute. The senators added a provision related to a renewable electricy standard that is currently part of a separate bill. Instead of a mandate on the amount of power that comes from simply renewable energy, they want to add clean coal and nuclear power to that mix. Again, that simply makes sense in so many ways.

Details below courtesy of CongressDaily:

"If you really want to do something significant about reducing greenhouse gas emissions … this one piece of legislation would do more than perhaps anything else," Voinovich said. "This bill by itself has merit to getting it done this year."

Rockefeller said renewable energy such as wind, solar and geothermal power cannot be developed quickly enough to replace coal anytime soon, so Congress should invest in technology that makes coal clean.

"We’re going to offer [the bill], and I think it’s going to change the face of this debate," Rockefeller said. "A lot of our colleagues won’t face up to the fact that [renewable energy] won’t make up the difference."

The $20 billion in federal money in their bill would go toward developing large-scale pilot projects of carbon capture and sequestration, in which carbon emissions are captured and stored underground or elsewhere instead of going into the atmosphere. The bill establishes a regulatory framework to monitor and govern "long-term geological storage" of carbon, Voinovich said. It also funds additional programs through loan guarantees and new tax credits for companies that are early adopters of the technology.

The bill would be funded by a fee assessed to utilities in both the commercial and industry sector. Consumers would see an increase of roughly $10 a year, both senators said. The fees would total about $2 billion a year, which is how the bill would pay for the $20 billion.

Senate Races in Ohio, N.C. Too

Our attention is obviously focused on the Hoosier state, but voters also went to the polls in Ohio and North Carolina today. Each has a competitive Senate primary.

In Ohio, former Republican Rep. Rob Portman is his party’s choice for the seat held by retiring GOP Sen. George Voinovich.

Two state administration officials are battling it out on the Democrat side. Although polls show Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher comfortably ahead of Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, Democratic activists are pushing Brunner’s candidacy. Low turnout could favor Brunner and make the race tighter than Fisher aides would like.

Incumbent House members from both parties are not expected to be seriously challenged in their primary races.

In North Carolina, Democratic strategists are nervous that former state Sen. Cal Cunningham, the party’s top recruit, will fall to Secretary of State Elaine Marshall. They view Cunningham as more likely to give Republican Sen. Richard Burr a serious challenge in November. Attorney Ken Lewis might provide a tough challenge for Burr.

Reps. Walter Jones and Howard Coble will face GOP primary challenges.