- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The ‘tyranny’ of energy illiteracy

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico Democrat, suggested last week that it was time to stop underestimating the ability of the working poor to be more energy-efficient.

“There’s a little bit of a disconnect between saying that because the people are low income in our state we can’t expect to see improvements in energy efficiency,” he said during a hearing on establishing renewable-energy mandates.

Mr. Bingaman was addressing concerns that some regions of the nation, including the Southwest, are unprepared to meet renewable-energy standards and increase energy efficiency.

“You’ve got a literacy problem, too,” said South Carolina public utility Commissioner David A. Wright. “It’s just a hard thing for them to understand what they can do.”

Mr. Bingaman shot back: “I’m reminded of our former president’s concern about the ‘tyranny of low expectations’ taking charge right here as well.”

Mr. Bingaman was, of course, referring to former President Bill Clinton. Speaking at an NAACP conference a little more than a decade ago, Mr. Clinton quipped that the “tyranny of segregation should not be replaced with the tyranny of low expectations.”

It won’t be as divisive as cap-and-trade …

Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, asked members of the same Senate panel last week whether it was a good idea to start the 111th Congress with an energy policy that highlights stark regional divisions.

In particular, Mr. Corker pressed Ralph Izzo, chairman of New Jersey’s Public Service Enterprise Group, on whether the renewable energy standards would amount to a battle not unlike the pending clash on climate-change proposals.

Mr. Izzo proffered that the derision a cap-and-trade debate would draw would be nothing compared to the drubbing he got: “I never once for a second thought that a cap-and-trade debate … would be any less divisive than the conversation we’re having right now.”

Mr. Bingaman broached the brief silence in the hearing room.

“I hope we get a chance to test that proposition,” he said at the end of the terse exchange, getting laughs around the room.

The HR File

Big moves afoot at the nuclear industry’s lobbying group last week.

The Nuclear Energy Institute elected Marvin Fertel its president, Phyllis Rich senior vice president and Alexander Marion vice president.

The three take over operations as lawmakers consider revamping the Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program, which holds vast potential for energy companies looking to build new nuclear plants. The loan program initially secures $18.5 billion in federal support for nuclear programs; NEI has said it would like to see up to $122 billion in lending capacity for new nuclear plants.

Got a staff change you’d like to see in this column? Shoot me an e-mail or give me a call.

Tom LoBianco can be reached at tlobianco@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-4891.

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