ENERGY POLICY:

Rising gasoline prices will 'reignite' CES debate -- Graham

A key Republican player in last year's energy policy debate said today that he is starting to work on energy policy for this Congress in anticipation of near-term action as gasoline prices continue to climb.

"I think $4 a gallon for gas is coming and is an opportunity to re-engage on the energy policy. ... Four dollars a gallon for gas is going to reignite this debate," Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters.

The national average for regular gasoline increased to $3.08 per gallon overnight, a gain of almost 10 cents in a month and 60 cents more than a year ago, according to AAA. Many lobbyists and other observers see high fuel prices driving congressional energy debates this year (Greenwire, Jan. 4).

At $4 gasoline, Graham said, "everybody is tripping over themselves to find an energy policy."

Graham said he is starting work on a bill that would require utilities to generate a certain percentage of electricity from "clean energy" including renewables, nuclear and coal with carbon capture and sequestration, known as a "clean energy standard" (CES).

Graham said he is planning to discuss the bill with Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), who has already indicated his interest in working with Graham. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also today expressed interest in working on a CES. And Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said last month that he would like to work on such a policy (E&E Daily, Dec. 14, 2010).

Staunch supporters of last year's renewable electricity standard (RES) -- requiring utilities to meet 15 percent of electricity needs with renewable energy -- are also warming to the CES idea if renewable energy remains an important part of the clean energy mandate.

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) today called a CES an "intriguing concept," but said the required percentage of low-carbon generation must be higher than the previous 15 percent discussed just for renewable energy, perhaps between 30 to 45 percent.

"My only concern is if you dilute the brand and ... the place that true renewable technologies operate, then you may not get the result you want," Udall said. "If none of the technologies in that group are advantaged or disadvantaged, I think it's an intriguing concept. But we have to hold fast to the idea that renewable energy in its truest form is a big part of the future, and we don't want to disadvantage ... wind, solar, tidal, geothermal."

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), the lead sponsor of last year's RES efforts, noted last month that he is also open to discussing a CES if it does not "wipe out" incentives for renewable energy.

Reporter Katie Howell contributed.

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