Can They Pass the Energy Bill? Or Any Bill?

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed a GREAT energy bill that would push auto fuel efficiency to 35 miles per gallon, getting it half way to the President’s desk.

And not a moment too soon! In addition to jacking up the mpg, the bill would also make some other big changes:

  • It would require the electric companies to use more and more renewable generating capacity, to the point where 15% of all electricity comes from renewables (solar, wind, geothermal, i.e. NOT coal)
  • It would levy $21B in taxes on oil companies. They currently get such lavish tax breaks that they practically paid no taxes at all in recent years, despite crazy record profits

But will any of this get past the insurmountable hurdle that is the Democratic Senate? After all, if there’s one thing the Dems have trouble doing, it’s doing anything at all.

Think about it: Have they beaten a filibuster, even once? Come up with the magical 60 votes for something important, even once?

The Republicans never had 60 votes in the Senate but they regularly found a few defectors to vote with them. But the Democrats, despite facing a demoralized, regrouping opposition that is politically and psychologically weak (as well as suffering under big election losses and endless hypocrisy-highlighting scandal), can’t move a bill. And even when they do, as with the kids’-health-insurance bill, they get beat with the veto and then simply accept defeat.

Given that track record, it is naive at this point to expect the bill to survive. That’s so sad, because even though it sounds like a dramatic world-changing law, the truth is that this energy bill is really only catching up to the situation on the ground.

  • Lots of states (and our little ‘burgh, Washington DC) are already taking on California’s car rules, which will eventually push up MPG requirements even without the federal government’s say-so.
  • Lots of utility regulators (like our hometown again) are setting higher requirements for renewable energy in their electricity supply. Many are aiming higher than 15%.
  • Lots of cars get better than 35 MPG already — all the hybrid sedans (Prius, Camry Hybrid, Civic Hybrid), which add up to several hundred thousand cars on the road already. They’re 20+ years ahead of this bill, if this bill even passes this year.

In retrospect, this was the wrong story to write about — Congress’s likely-meaningless charades aside, the real story is happening in state and local governments, where the lightbulbs have been fluorescent for years….

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