Will the Senate successfully pass an energy bill this year? During today's OnPoint, Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, explains why she believes a renewable electricity standard will be considered by the Senate following the August recess. She also explains how the lack of certainty surrounding energy policy is impacting the wind energy industry.
Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to the show. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Organization. Denise, thanks for coming on the show.
Denise Bode: Glad to be here.
Monica Trauzzi: Denise, passage of an energy and oil spill package out in the Senate is looking less and less likely this week ahead of August recess. If a bill does not pass, what do you think the prospects are for a post-recess debate on energy?
Denise Bode: We can't imagine there not being a renewable electric standard passed this year because it's so important to have all those manufacturing jobs that come with an RES. So, we're very hopeful that will be discussed at least this week and that when they come back from August recess, then it will be front and center, because the RES is really important to have a clean energy package.
Monica Trauzzi: But an RES was not included in this narrower energy bill, I know you've been lobbying hard for it. What have you been hearing from leadership about the reasoning for not including it? Are the votes just not there?
Denise Bode: No, I think there was some confusion initially when they decided to take the cap-and-trade provisions out. And I think we have always, we have always since last year, and we have whipped this half a dozen times, we have always had 60 votes and that was on strengthening the RES. Now that we're talking about what was passed as part of the Energy and Natural Resources bill, the 15 percent, we clearly got over 60 votes and a number of Republicans that have said they'd offer. I mean Senator Brownback last week said he'd be glad to offer the amendment on the floor in a floor statement in a colloquy was Senator Dorgan. So, we believe we have the support and the votes and we have firming up with leadership, so they certainly understand that we do have broad-based support and bipartisan support.
Monica Trauzzi: So then is it better for the RES if nothing happens on energy this week and they wait until after recess?
Denise Bode: We like plan A, plan B, plan C; we just can't imagine that there's not going to be an RES passed this year, because, you know the industry will continue to be around and grow because it really has gotten a foothold here in the United States thanks to the 30 some states that put policies in place, renewable standards in place. But what we'll miss if we don't have it is not wind energy, what we'll miss is all those manufacturing jobs here. Because really, in order to grow the industry, you have to get, you know, a foothold in terms of manufacturing. We've what? About 50 percent of our manufacturers are now here in the United States, but it's a global industry. So all these companies are looking, shall I invest in the U.S.? Shall I invest in China where they do have hard renewable standards or the European Union where the industry grew up? Shall we just build out more there? And so they're looking at the U.S. trying to see if they're going to put a long-term commitment in place in the U.S. like they have elsewhere. And whether they're going to focus, continue to focus on sort of your heritage generation industries, like fossil fuel-based industries or they're going to diversify into renewables. I think one of the most appalling things we found out, Monica, in the last quarter was that first half of this year we have installed more coal and fossil fuel generation in the United States than wind. And that's the first time in over five years that that's happened. So the lack ...
Monica Trauzzi: And you think an RES would ...
Denise Bode: Absolutely.
Monica Trauzzi: Switch the tables on them?
Denise Bode: Absolutely, because the promise has been made by the president and his Congress. It was part of the agenda, you know, that we're going to get this passed, so commitment, money has been spent to start building out manufacturing here. And if that promise is not kept, then the manufacturers will go, well, you know, there's not going to be policy in place. So we're going to invest in China or in the EU. We're not going to invest more on manufacturing in the U.S. So, when I say it's incomprehensible we don't do it, I just won't believe it. I mean we will be fighting every step of the way because this is a legacy for this country to build a whole new manufacturing sector in clean energy.
Monica Trauzzi: If it doesn't happen this year, does it become more difficult next year, especially if the Democrats lose some seats in November?
Denise Bode: You know, I think that it will become more difficult, not because of that, but because it would be hard to attract the manufacturing jobs here. The states have done a pretty good job with their patchwork quilt, but next year, you know, we'll continue to fight for it. The problem is we will have lost some of those manufacturers who really would like to come either grow their facilities here, the General Electrics, or new facilities being built. So it's really sad.
Monica Trauzzi: Cap and trade, it seems that many members of Congress are trying to run from it. They don't want to give their votes for it this year. Do you think that this marks the end of the cap-and-trade debate in the Senate because it's failed so many times or do you think there's still a future for it?
Denise Bode: You know, I think carbon policy, I guess I would focus more on having policy, carbon policy, the Clean Air Act policies being implemented. And I'm a former regulator, state regulator of utilities, and we have really…you know, we have some utilities that have already made the investment to go to clean energy and that have built out new scrubbers, not just for carbon, to address the carbon issue, but made investments there, but for SOx and NOx. And we've got to have…they would be disadvantaged over other utilities if we didn't get something in play. So I think, frankly, the utility industry is going to look for something because the uncertainty that's been created would harm them. And, of course, we'll lose as a nation and country because we'll lose all the manufacturing jobs, we'll lose having a lead in the world in clean energy technology and I just think that, you know, it will happen. And the RES is part of that, but also a long-term policy is addressing Clean Air Act issues like carbon, SOx and NOx and mercury.
Monica Trauzzi: OK, we're going to end it there. Thank you for coming on the show.
Denise Bode: Thanks, thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.
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