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House Dems Announce Compromises on Renewable Electricity and Auto Allowances

The Democratic leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee just released the details of a compromise on the renewable electricity standard in the Waxman-Markey energy and climate bill. The original draft bill called for 25 percent of the country’s electricity to come from renewable sources like solar and wind power by 2025. Under the compromise, the requirement is 20 percent by 2020 for a combination of renewable energy and efficiency improvements; states can receive 15 percent of their energy from renewables and improve efficiency by 5 percent, or they can opt for a 12/8 balance.

While the numbers are noteworthy, the real significance here lies in the sponsors of the agreement. Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) are, not surprisingly, at the top of the press release. But so are Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) — all moderate Congressmen from coal- or industry-reliant states who were considered swing votes on the bill.

Boucher said he was “pleased with the product we are able to put forward on this issue,” while Dingell, the former Energy and Commerce chairman who has expressed strong reservations about the bill, said the compromise “moves the ball forward significantly in terms of renewable energy, but does so in a framework within which all states can operate.”

The renewable electricity standard is merely one of several controversial components of the legislation. Still, Waxman appears open to compromise, and the moderate Democrats on the committee, who previously expressed concern over the renewable energy provisions, have agreed to what is really only a modest change. Democrats may indeed be able to vote this bill out of committee by Waxman’s Memorial Day target.

Update: Just a few minutes later, the Energy and Commerce leadership sent out another press release, announcing a compromise on the allocation of carbon allowances to the auto industry. The Obama administration has pushed for all allowances to be auctioned off to polluters, not given away for free. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, representing eleven major vehicle manufacturers, has asked Congress to give the auto industry 5 percent of all allowances for free. The compromise: the industry gets 3 percent of allowances until 2017, and then 1 percent until 2025. Again, Dingell’s name is on the press release. One step closer to a bill that House Democrats can pass.

Update 2: And now they’ve released a compromise on allowances for “energy-intensive, trade-exposed industries,” which will receive 15 percent of allowances, as expected. In 2025, the president (whoever that may be) will determine whether the continued allocation of allowances is needed. What remains: the allocation to electric utilities, which are expected to receive 35 percent of allowances.

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