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US Economic Recovery Endangered by Paralyzed Senate

We Can Lead is posting a ticker on its website showing how the US is falling behind the world at the rate of $260 million per day in private investment in clean energy.  This is due to the lack of climate legislation from the Senate putting a price on carbon. If there is no legislative push from behind, there is no real reason to end the procrastination against switching from dirty energy.


The House passed a climate bill in this session (ACES), but would have to start over next year from scratch to pass a new one to coordinate with any Senate bill in the next session. But with the typical mid term swing away from the party in power, the Senate Democrats will not likely top the filibuster-proof hurdle of 60, (held briefly for a few months in 2009 after Franken was finally sworn in, and before Kennedy was hospitalized).

So utilities, for one, are holding onto cash until or if climate legislation with a price on carbon emissions is ever passed in this country, allowing their inventory of aging coal power plants to grow ever more decrepit.

A Peterson Institute study found that annual investments in the electricity sector would go up 50 percent within ten years if a cap on carbon was passed.

Partly that jump would be enhanced during this recession because both labor and capital are underemployed now, so a policy that would spur new investment in the private sector in clean energy would create more jobs rather than simply taking them from other sectors, as it would if the economy was doing fine.

It is not that the electric utilities will only move if pushed from behind, but the economics are completely different with or without a price on carbon, which makes returns too uncertain to get financing now, when it is possible that your competitors will wait till a price is placed on carbon (at which time they would be able to get a better deal from the bank who sees that clean energy is a much better investment – with the hitherto hidden cost of carbon factored in – than dirty energy).

Why is our democracy paralyzed? It is not just that today’s Republican party wants to paralyze action. It is that they can. Because of the abuse of the filibuster, 41 senators representing less than 11 percent of the nation’s population can, in principle, block action supported by 59 senators representing more than 89 percent of our population.

The rural states with the fewest people (and just a fossil energy industry in the state; think Alaska, Wyoming, the Dakotas) get equal time with the urban states with the most people (employed in a wide variety of industries).

When our republic was created, the population ratio between the largest and smallest state was not all that extreme – just 13 to 1.

Back then, it seemed reasonable that small states should get equal representation.

But now, the ratio is 68 to 1. The minority party in a state with just a couple thousand voters can effectively disenfranchise the vast majority of Americans. The tyranny of a few, representing one industry, is hardly what the framers had in mind.

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.


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