Pelosi Plugs Local Energy Plan

Nancy Pelosi does Austin.

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, made an impromptu appearance at city hall yesterday - complete with stoic Secret Service agents who mumbled into their jacket sleeves - declaring an otherwise mundane Monday "Energy Independence Day!"

She stood alongside local U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, to talk up energy independence and global warming mitigation, what she called the "flagship issues" of the the Democratic leadership's New Direction Forward initiative. "It's been a long time since we've had a House Speaker at city hall and it's been a long time since we've had a Speaker committed to energy independence," Doggett said. Calling Austin the nation's leader in clean energy, Pelosi lauded the work of city council, Austin Energy, and the Clean Energy Incubator in advancing use of technologies like solar photovoltics and biodiesel, also giving props to Austin's Climate Protection Plan and Mayor's Will Wynn's role as Energy Committee Chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors for its focus on climate change - an issue "as local as a neighborhood and as global as the planet," she said. "So too must be our proposals in our leadership for change to make the difference, said Pelosi, "and I see that here."

The House-passed New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 3221 and 2776), a long overdue measure that extends a swath of incentives to clean and renewable energy technologies, establishes a historic Renewable Electricity Standard requiring that 15% of America's electricity come from renewable sources by 2020 (giving utilities the option of meeting up to 4% of the goal with energy efficiency tactics), and killing $23 billion in Big Oil subsidies as well as tax loopholes for giant SUVs. The Senate passed versions of both bills and no presidential veto threats have been uttered so far, she said. The two must now be combined into one measure. And though the bills are advertised as being capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 by the equivalent of taking every car in America off the road, Pelosi said actual climate change legislation won't materialize until next legislative session (with just weeks remaining in this one), due to lack of consensus. Asked why the the bill lacked provisions for improving the U.S.'s sad passenger rail infrastructure, something energy experts say is urgently needed to address oil dependence and climate change, Pelosi said, "a very strong commitment to mass transit is absolutely essential," and some of that will come in the pending Appropriations and Transportation Authorizations Bills. "There is a debate… there are those who say we need to build more highways [sounds familiar], and we do have the responsibility to maintain our infrastructure, but we have to take the lead of mass transit." The real question, said Pelosi, is "will the status quo hold us back or will we be free to do what we know needs to be done, to be able to bequeath to future generations a planet that is much cleaner." Pelosi was in town for a Dem campaign event yesterday.

While it was nice to see the venerable Speaker in the flesh and the event provided a good excuse to ride the 'ol bicycle downtown on a sunny morning, leaders from both parties could fight climate change themselves by limiting their non-essential air travels and utilizing more virtual conferencing. Think of the tax money we'd save on Secret Service sleeve radios too.

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