Udall brothers continue their push for a national renewable energy standard

By David O. Williams
Real AspenApril 7, 2011
Two days after a conservative group filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver challenging Colorado's renewable energy standard (RES), Colorado Sen. Mark Udall – who was instrumental in getting voter approval for that RES back in 2004 – introduced a bill with his cousin Tom Udall, D-N.M., to establish a national standard.

Mark Udall has tried several times in the past to model a federal standard after Colorado's RES, which is the second most aggressive in the United States behind only California. Last year he and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet tried unsuccessfully to at least pass a federal RES even when it looked like a comprehensive climate bill didn't have enough votes to make it out of the Senate.

The Udalls' latest bill would require utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources by 2025. Colorado's RES, first approved by voters in 2004 at the 10 percent by 2020 level, has since been legislatively increased to 30 percent by 2020.

The latest Udall bill would require utilities nationwide to generate 6 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2013, followed by gradual increases up to 25 percent by 2025. Including Colorado and New Mexico, 29 states and the District of Columbia currently have some sort of RES.

“I was proud to lead the effort in Colorado to pass one of the country's first Renewable Electricity Standards – and it has helped the state create over 30,000 new good-paying jobs and spurred the growth of one of the strongest renewable energy sectors in the country,” Mark Udall said in a release.

“We can do the same thing across the country with a robust national RES. A national RES would unleash innovation, helping America compete for renewable energy manufacturing jobs and lead in the global economic race.”

A recent PEW Environment report revealed the United States has dropped to third behind China and Germany in renewable energy investment.

The Udalls first introduced a RES in 2002 while members of the House. They later built a coalition in the House that won passage of a national RES amendment in 2007, but it died in the Senate. When both were elected to the Senate, they introduced another national RES bill in 2008.

Tom and Mark Udall

“Americans want to put our nation on a path towards energy independence, and this bill is our best chance to get America running on homegrown energy while creating good jobs for hardworking Americans,” Tom Udall said in a release.

“Studies show that a federal RES would reduce energy bills, revitalize rural America, slow global warming and strengthen our energy security. With American innovation and ingenuity, we can put our people to work in a thriving, clean energy economy.”

While the bill may be able to make it out of the Senate – although even that isn't a certainty – it has almost no chance in the Republican-controlled House. A climate change bill made it out of the then Democrat-controlled House last year but later died in the Senate.

Last week Mark Udall introduced a resolution in support of the Clean Air Act, which the GOP-controlled House – including members of the Colorado delegation — has been trying to dismantle in order to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions as a form of air pollution. The resolution was signed by 33 other senators and makes it clear that any anti-EPA bills that make it out of the House will likely die in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

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