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Congressional Dems get smart on pushing “all of the above” energy vote

By Joe Romm

"Congressional Dems get smart on pushing “all of the above” energy vote"

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all-of-the-above.jpgLooks like the Congressional Democrats are shrewd enough to take on the GOP big lie that Republicans in Congress actually believe in an “all of the above” energy policy (see “The Big Energy Lie — Blog round-up“). Greenwire reports today that “Democrats plot strategy for putting GOP on its heels” (subs. req’d):

Democrats plan to return to Washington and the campaign trail next week with a message on offshore drilling that they say will put Republicans on the defensive….

On Capitol Hill, congressional Democrats say they will try to corner the Republicans by offering them votes on their own agenda with Democratic priorities mixed in.”We’re about to do a political reverse takedown on the Republicans,” said Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

Top House Democrats say that shortly after Congress reconvenes, they will put on the floor a piece of legislation that will include an expansion of offshore drilling but also a renewable electricity mandate, energy-efficiency standards for buildings and oil industry tax provisions.

Some Democrats have started to describe the legislation and the broader message on energy as “all of the above” — a term first coined by House Republicans to describe their own legislation.

I have been saying for more than a month a deal makes sense on both policy and political grounds (see “Since offshore oil is de minimis, why shouldn’t Obama and the Dems make a deal? Part 1“). I do think the House is making a mistake pushing a renewable electricity mandate rather than a long-term extension of the renewable energy tax cuts found in the Senate Deal (see “The good, the bad and the ugly of the Gang-of-10 drilling deal, Part 2: Something for nothing?“). I will blog on that when Congress returns.

Here is the rest of the story:

“We’ll see whether the proponents of all of the above can take yes for an answer,” said David Sandalow, a former Clinton administration official and an energy adviser to the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

Democrats said their bill is a work in progress and offered few specifics, but they expressed confidence it would force Republicans into a tough spot.

“That’s going to be a very difficult vote for a lot of these people,” Markey said. “We’ll put it all in there, and if somehow or other we get the majority of Republicans to vote for that, we’ll have a revolution on our hands, and if we don’t, we’re going to have a revolution November 4th on our hands.”

Democrats insist the bill would be a genuine legislative effort, but even if it passes the House, the legislation figures to face a tough slog in the Senate.

House Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) said the inclusion of an offshore drilling provision showed Democratic leaders were being receptive to the needs of some in their caucus.

“It’s our effort to address all of our caucus that represents the concerns of the American people,” Rahall said. “And so we’re taking that input in the development of the legislation.”

House Republicans, meanwhile, have already started to dismiss the potential plan as a gimmick and have given little indication that the Democratic bid for an offshore drilling vote will do much to sway the Republican caucus.

“The American people support our plan, and they have every right to demand that Speaker Pelosi allow a vote on our energy reforms,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). “They deserve more than yet another Democratic scheme that will do nothing to lower gasoline prices or reduce home heating costs.”

Campaign message emphasizes alternative energy

But even as Democrats warm to offshore drilling on Capitol Hill, the party is making it clear that its message on the campaign trail — especially in the White House race — will focus on alternative energy, and that it will continue to attack Republicans for embracing what Democrats describe as a pro-oil-industry position.

Obama — who has recently said he could support offshore drilling as part of a broader energy proposal — attacked his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, on the issue during his acceptance speech last Thursday.

“Washington’s been talking about our oil addiction for the last 30 years,” the Illinois senator said. “Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stopgap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.”

And in speech after speech during the Democratic convention, top Democrats attempted to paint McCain’s and other Republicans’ embrace of offshore drilling as bending to the desires of the oil companies.

“Even the leaders in the oil industry know that Sen. McCain has it wrong. We can’t simply drill our way to energy independence, even if you drilled everywhere, if you drilled in all of John McCain’s backyards, even the ones he doesn’t know he has.” Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer said in a rousing convention speech.

“There just isn’t enough oil in America, on land or offshore, to meet America’s full energy needs,” Schweitzer said.

But even as top party officials aggressively went after McCain’s position on drilling, some Democrats grudgingly admitted that the presumptive Republican nominee had managed to score political points with his aggressive pro-drilling positions.

“I think we’ve moved the dial a little bit, but we were clearly — both the Obama campaign and Democrats in Congress — were losing the ‘drilling, no drilling’ argument,” said Dan Carol, issues director for the Obama campaign.

But Carol and other Obama allies also say they believe they have successfully steered the campaign dialogue back toward green jobs and renewables.

“The conversation has moved a lot more toward … a big, job-creating national renewable project that we can take on here,” Carol said in Denver last week. “We’re in favor of it; John McCain is in favor of Big Oil.

“I hope that we’ve flipped McCain on the mat,” he said. “We haven’t gotten the points yet, and I think we’ll be able to pick up those points if things go well.”

Republicans maintain that despite the Democrats’ confidence, voters will still turn to McCain as the candidate who will present more concrete solutions rather than to someone promising solutions many years down the road.

“Hope for renewables in 10 years is just that — a hope,” said Frank Donatelli, deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee. “What we need is an aggressive program to develop more energy right now — that means drilling offshore, that means more nuclear and more coal.”

Environmentalists admit slow response

Environmentalists admit they were slow to respond to the GOP’s attacks on energy. And just like the politicians, advocacy groups say they will fire back by aggressively promoting an alternative energy message — one that they maintain will still prevail with voters.

“Voters are for drilling, but they’re tepid about it; they don’t think it’s going to make a big difference,” said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. “The fact is, the message ‘You’re too close to Big Oil’ will trump [the] message ‘I’m for drilling off the coast’ every time.”

Officials from environmental groups and various other party backers said that is exactly the message that they intend to focus on through November — that McCain and other Republicans are acting at the behest of the oil companies.

And Democratic officials said one of the reasons — though a somewhat minor one — that lawmakers rushed toward a pro-drilling position was the lack of any kind of voice from the other side.

“Nobody heard from [environmentalists] in their district office, nobody heard from them during that discussion — they were simply not there,” said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), a close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Still, environmentalists and Democratic politicians believe that once voters hear an aggressive pro-green message, they will quickly embrace such policies over calls for more drilling.

“I think [the voters were] scared — there wasn’t a whole lot of leadership in Congress on what is the right response to give American people in response from high gas prices, so there was sort of a panic,” said Elise Jones, executive director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition. “Now that people have taken a deep breath and oil prices have started to go down, let’s go back to the solution path that makes the most sense.”

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15 Responses to Congressional Dems get smart on pushing “all of the above” energy vote

  1. BT says:

    I agree that the renewables/efficiency tax credit extenders are absolutely critical. I saw this Greenwire story, but it wasn’t clear to me that the tax extenders were not included in the legislation, the story may just not have mentioned it. Do you have any other confirmation that they are not in there? And what about the offsets from revoking the royalties suspension? Any idea if that is in there? Both of these pieces were in the ‘gang-of-10′ proposal…
    At any rate, the posturing does seem to suggest both sides are happier to keep the issue alive for the election than to achieve a compromise this session.

  2. Paul K says:

    This Republican victory to legislate the McCain “all of the above” program is the first step in eliminating CO2 emissions. Palin’s proven record vs the oil companies should impress climate voters.

  3. red says:

    CP: “I do think the House is making a mistake pushing a renewable electricity mandate rather than a long-term extension of the renewable energy tax cuts found in the Senate Deal”

    Without knowing the details, just the keywords “mandate” and “tax cut”, it seems likely that the Senate version would be more likely to appeal to the Republicans, and that the tax cut version would be more likely to work efficiently in a business sense. A newspaper article I read today seemed to indicate that the tax incentives are working pretty well, so I don’t know why they wouldn’t continue them.

    I guess if the Democrats arrange the non-offshore drilling parts to be too unappealing to the Republicans, or the Republicans blow some items they don’t like out of proportion, there won’t be a compromise and we’ll have a big reason for a Congressional vote for “not the incumbant”.

  4. John Hollenberg says:

    Paul, while I enjoy your posts, I always wonder what planet you are writing from :-)

    The Republicans were the ones who didn’t want to go for the gang of 10 compromise (and likely won’t go for a compromise that actually includes something besides oil drilling). Palin, who denies AGW, is not a climate voters delight. She is the one who wants to open the ANWR to drilling, and Alaska is extremely dependent on Big Oil for income. She just wants to get a bigger piece of the oil pie for Alaskans. How anything she stands for would be beneficial for the climate is a mystery to me.

  5. Brendan says:

    Do you think passing a bill like this will lead to further bills (cap and trade/carbon tax), or do you think it is more likely that congress will consider their work done?

  6. Paul K says:

    John Hollenberg,
    The question isn’t who believes most in global warming. It is who can best lead the transition to 21st century energy.

    McCain has a plan that will replace fossil fuel. He is doing it for reasons of national security and economic survival. He is supported in this by a large majority of Republicans. McCain also cites climate change as a reason. Many, but not all, Republicans are AGW skeptics, but that does not mean they are not committed to an alternative future. Do you think T. Boone Pickens gives a fig about global warming?

    Senator Obama’s plan is stunningly weak. Even Joe couldn’t muster much enthusiasm for it.

  7. Paul K says:

    Brendan,

    While some may argue that renewable standards, regulatory incentives, and market forces are sufficient, McCain’s website details a cap/trade plan. If a true market system can be developed, I think both Repubs and Dems will support it.

  8. Andy Bauer says:

    I’m a big fan of the Renewable Energy Tax Credit. In CT, solar installers are partnering with financial institutions and the CT Clean Energy Fund to substantially reduce the cost of PV installations. Some are offering 100+ Kw systems for no money down, entering into long term contracts with the facility owners.

    These installs were picking up speed… until it became clear that the Credit was in trouble. I can point to two prospects that had the green light up to June of this year. And then forward progress simply stopped.

    Big Mistake. On jobs alone, the number of CT solar installers (and their work force) has almost tripled in less than three years.

  9. John Hollenberg says:

    > Senator Obama’s plan is stunningly weak. Even Joe couldn’t muster much enthusiasm for it.

    Paul, perhaps you forgot to read Joe’s article, in which he described Obama’s plan as “easily the best energy plan ever put forward by a nominee of either party”:

    http://climateprogress.org/2008/08/04/barack-obama-new-energy-plan-for-america-efficiency-now-10-renewables-by-2012-1-million-plugs-in-by-2015/

  10. Paul K says:

    John,
    I’ve downloaded the Obama Plan and will be happy to point out it’s shortcomings over the next few days. I’m sure there’s a few things in it I can support. I smiled when I noted in a quick scan he calls for prioritizing the stalled Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline. Sarah Palin has just recently concluded negotiations with Canadian officials that will make the pipeline a reality.

    By the way, we call our planet Zorkar where people would rather reach a goal than win an argument.

  11. john says:

    Paul, whatever you’re taking, you should distribute to your Republican friends. Any drug which can so completely divorce you from reality, would be nice to take during the Republican National Convention, and frankly, the spins, denials and counterfactual claims coming out of the Twin cities are so desperate that even the true-believers are showing their doubts.

    McCain good on energy and climate? Whew. That’s as big a whopper as I’ve seen in public in a long, long, time.

    Look, McCain voted against tax credits for renewables; he abstained in a vote on a Climate Bill WHERE HE WOULD HAVE BEEN THE DECIDING VOTE.

    His “Drill here, Drill now” mantra is bought and paid for by the oil companies — who have literally thrown money at McCain once he was against what he used to be for before he was against it.

    As even the Bush EIA points out, drilling’s not a solution; it’s a distraction.

    McCain has backtracked so far and fast from his own global warming bill that he could have entered and won the Olympic 100 meter race.

    Reality. It can suck, especially for a Republican right now. But geez, Paul, saying up is down and white is black won’t make it so, no matter how hard you click your heels.

    You Party is wrong on energy; wrong on global warming; wrong on the economics of green energy; and firmly in the pocket of big oil.

    Sorry, but them’s the facts.

  12. john says:

    Paul:

    “McCain has a plan that will replace fossil fuel.”

    And he’s doing that by drilling for more?

    ‘Cap and Trade”

    McCain has said cap and trade isn’t mandatory; and his plan has so many loopholes it would not result in any real cuts until 2020. Moreover, a cap and trade program that doesn’t have supporting policies — such as RPSs; tax credits; forward capacity auctions etc … would need to reach more than $400 per ton to have any effect on fossil fuel consumption. Talk about an economy wrecker.

    Then you say Joe can’t muster enthusiasm for Obama’s plan, when the opposite is true.

    Each of these issues has been painstakingly documented by Joe and others on this site, in excruciating detail, with highly credible references.

    In contrast, you come on this site and just make stuff up based — apparently — on a knee-jerk and totally blind obeisance to the Republican party’s latest position. A position that puts oil companies’ profits above the interests of America and the Earth.

    Not funny. What’s next: Sarah Palin is a greenie and a great statesman?

  13. Paul K says:

    McCain good on energy and climate? Yes, he understands the necessity of replacing fossil fuel and, unlike Obama, has actually introduced climate legislation. This is an incremental process that will play out over the next 25 – 35 years. The disagreement is not about where we want to go, but how we get there. McCain has a proven ability to overcome partisanship on contentious issues.

    Rant if you must about drill now, drill here. The reality is it is favored by a majority of the people and the Congress. Energy independence is a critical step to energy transition.

  14. Andy Bauer says:

    Paul,
    “Rant if you must about drill now, drill here. The reality is it is favored by a majority of the people and the Congress.”

    With all due respect, that doesn’t avoid the fact that it won’t do any of the positive things its proponents are claiming. And it’ll cost a boatload of money to boot.

  15. Andy Bauer says:

    Here’s an example of two directions:

    In CT, utilities are spending almost a billion on about 700Mw of new power and transmission upgrades in order to shave the peak. This was funded by Federally Mandated Congestion Charges, gathered from electricity ratepayers bills to the tune of @ $13 per $100. We just said No to a floating natural gas terminal in Long Island Sound. The four new plants will burn natural gas that is steadily rising in price. Someone’s not connecting the dots.

    Meanwhile, for 1.3 million, the CT Clean Energy Fund brought 300 Kw of photovoltaics online (gathered from ratepayers at @ 60 cents per $100). Give the Fund the same resources and we get about 225 Mw worth of PV. Great for peak shaving, and works year round also.

    A study on CT energy efficiency indicated that there are 900 Mw to be saved.

    I vote for efficiency, the PV, and a whole lot of educational outreach for the pro drilling crowd.