Ohio’s Voinovich Rejects Renewable Energy Mandates, Gore Gore’s Bush on Global Warming

OhioNews Bureau

ONB COLUMBUS: Supporters of a comprehensive federal energy bill, known as H.R.6 took Ohio’s senior senator, George V. Voinovich, to task for his vote Thursday that helped defeat the current version that included, among other purposes, increases the production of clean renewable fuels.

Meanwhile, in far away Bali, an Indonesian island where a United Nation’s conference on global warming is taking place, Al Gore, a former US Vice President and recent winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his pioneering work on global warming, told attendees that hope for greater, more enlightened US participation in reaching agreement on a “roadmap” for a future deal to reduce greenhouse gases is on the way in 2008 when America elects a new president.

THE VOINOVICH ENERGY VOTE: WRONG FOR OHIO, WRONG FOR THE WORLD

In a report on how big oil and big utilities got their way and and avoided paying billions in the process, The New York Times said that "a $13 billion tax increase on oil companies and a requirement that utilities nationwide produce 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources were left on the floor" to secure the votes of some Republicans, like Ohio's Voinovich.

The Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned electric utilities, led the opposition to the renewable electricity mandate. Along with its member companies in the Midwest and Southeast, the group carried out an extensive lobbying campaign warning that the bill would cause sharp increases in electric rates.

The Times said The Edison Institute, a group funded by investor-owned electric utilities, led a team of opponents including the National Association of Manufacturers, the Chamber of Commerce and groups representing the paper, mining, petrochemical and refining industries who "carried out an extensive lobbying campaign warning that the bill would cause sharp increases in electric rates."

Their message was that a federal mandate would conflict with mandates for renewable power in place in more than half the states. Continuing, they said this could possibly complicate efforts to pass a nationwide program to combat climate change.

“The federal government jumping in now and second-guessing the states and enacting a fuel mandate in advance of economy-wide greenhouse gas regulation just wasn’t going to make it out of Congress.” [Dan Riedinger, Edison Institute, NYT

For Ohio, a state with vast reserves of coal, the Senate version contained $10 billion for plants to turn coal into liquid vehicle fuel and $2 billion to turn coal into natural gas. The bill goes back to the House where it is expected to win overwhelming support next week.

One critic of Voinovich, who reflects the thoughts of others who support reducing greenhouse gases by using more renewable sources of energy, said that by Voinovich aligning himself with the interests of big energy companies, which are also supported by the Bush White House, against those of consumers with his vote, the moderate Republican, a former multi-term Mayor of Cleveland and Governor of Ohio who some think may run for a third term starting in 2010, puts him at odds with Ohio’s new, junior senator, Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, who was one of the 53 senators voting yes on H.R.6. But because of Senate rules that require 60 votes to pass bills and avoid a filibuster, it failed.

In an announcement by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., about the defeat of the energy bill, which was characterized as a victory for American Electric Power, headquartered in Ohio’s capital city, he said the removal of mandates for renewable energy will get the measure moving again.

Voinovich and most Senate Republicans said including the renewable mandates would raise utility rates. They called for more clean-coal technology and nuclear power as part of the mandates. Ohio has vast reserves of coal and AEP is working on a new coal-burning plant that uses new technology that will produce emission-free energy.

A spokesman for Voinovich said the senator, like Strickland, is in favor of a “responsible renewable package.”

"Unfortunately, all the Democrats wanted was windmills and solar, which does absolutely nothing to help lower the rates in Ohio." [Chris Paulitz, Voinovich spokesman, The Columbus Dispatch]

Voinovich obviously didn’t clear his remarks on what constitutes a “responsible renewable package” with Strickland. In the same article, Strickland took issue with Voinovich, saying, “this country will look like we are Neanderthals if they pass a large energy bill and fail to address the potential" for renewable energy sources.”

GORE GORES BUSH POLICY ON GLOBAL WARMING

From the thunderous reception he received in Oslo, Norway earlier in the week when he was award the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership work on the facts about global warming and how mankind can stop contributing to its spread around the globe, Al Gore, America’s unelected and un-appointed but stellar and applauded ambassador on climate change, again did not spare the rod and spoil the child that is President Bush and his invincible stubbornness to go beyond the most timid of acknowledgments of the issue to actions that would bridge the growing divide between the US, Europe and other countries.

“Over the next two years the United States is going to be somewhere it is not now. You must anticipate that.” [Al Gore, New York Times]

Surprisingly, Gore wasn’t the only American political leader who made an appearance and called for America to act even if other countries like China or India, whose remarkable growth contributes mightily to the problem, don’t follow suite.

In a interview with The New York Times, Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, joined Gore in criticizing the Bush White House for both trying to water down more ambitious goals proposed by the EU and for not moving forward with policy changes regardless of what other countries may or may not do.

“There’s a belief that the United States should not do anything until all the other governments are willing to go along and do it at the same time. We should be doing this regardless of whether the world is following or not.” [Mayor Bloomberg, New York Times]

OHIO ENERGY BILL A MIXED BAG

In Columbus, location of the Ohio Statehouse, the Ohio Legislature, which has had relatively few session days despite it being one of the longest in the nation, spent time passing some bills whose importance pales in comparison to the need to pass a new, comprehensive energy bill before adjourning for their holiday break.

The energy policy proposed by Gov. Ted Strickland, which moved through the Ohio Senate and is now in the House, has garnered support from big energy users and from big utilities, who are working hard to get what they want – a declaration of the existence of competitive markets by the state’s regulatory body so they can raise rates and being able to pass along various construction rates to consumers.

But consumers, represented by the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, the state’s advocacy agency for its approximately 4.5 million residential utility users, have yet to see legislators stand up for the interests of what has been described as the “largest stakeholder in this process”, as outlined in testimony by the OCC in committee hearings.

Strickland told a Dispatch reporter that he wants the Ohio legislature to require that 12.5 percent of the state's electricity be generated through wind and solar by 2025, and another 12.5 percent be produced by clean coal and nuclear power. He added that he wants both a renewable standard and an advanced technology standard. Furthermore, he said a Spanish solar energy company, which has a facility in Ohio, told him the state has the right climate to generate solar energy.

John Michael Spinelli is a former Ohio Statehouse government and political reporter and business columnist. He now serves as the OhioNews Bureau Chief for ePluribus Media Journal. Find ONB archives here.

If readers have a news tip or story idea about Ohio politics or government, contact the OhioNews Bureau at: ohionews@www.epluribusmedia.org

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must not have been speaking about northern Ohio! If my memory serves me right........I remember many many dreary days. I never encountered mild sunny weather on a regular basis until I moved to the Ozarks in Southern Missouri. OMG temperate weather with all four seasons...remarkable.