The latest from the Brookings Institution's Mark Muro is a perfectly succinct summary of how one should judge the coming Kerry-(Graham?)-Lieberman Senate climate and energy bill, reportedly scheduled for release this Wednesday:
What is clear, though, is this: To get to a good bill senators need to deal properly with the revenue--whether from offshore oil drilling or pollution allowance auctions or whatever else is in the bill. And to do that they need to make sure a huge chunk of it gets applied to clean-energy research and development. Get that right and much else needn't be perfect. Blow that, and the bill is likely not worth it.
... The bottom line is this: Putting a price on carbon, or regulating emissions, ... while absolutely necessary, will not be sufficient to address the nation's climate problem and will, importantly, not put the U.S. in the position to seize the extraordinary opportunities that will come with rebuilding to global energy economy. Also necessary, as we keep saying, will be a major drive to promote large-scale technology breakthroughs. No matter how you measure it, U.S. government investment in clean energy R&D remains grossly inadequate. Right now clean energy R&D accounts for only around $3 billion a year. But if we're going to see real progress in de-carbonizing the present economy and creating the next one this number should be closer to $15 billion and probably as much as $25 billion per year.
So that's the target: $15 to $25 billion a year is "the number"--the critical investment threshold for federal clean energy investment that must become a core benchmark for evaluating any and all federal climate, energy, or indeed appropriations deal making.
Mark notes the rumors and reports of the still-not-yet-public drafts of the K-G-L bill do not bode well for the bill's ability to clear this critical clean energy innovation threshold...
Mark also notes that if Congress still insists on moving forward with more offshore drilling -- a key pillar of the political dealmaking behind the Senate climate bill push -- the new revenues from oil and gas production should be directed towards clean energy innovation investments as well. Here's Muro:
The price of drilling's inclusion should clearly be not just strict new drilling safeguards, but a hard link of drilling to clean technology innovation as well. That is, Senate dealmakers should in effect embrace the outline of a recent GOP plan to put hundreds of billions of new oil and gas royalties into a fund to accelerate clean energy innovation that would help make clean energy cheap and truly help wean America from its carbon dependency.
While the political inevitability of new offshore drilling sure looks to have vanished since Breakthrough's Yael Borofsky and I outlined the same concept about a month ago, the larger point still stands: IF we drill, the money had better be put to good use, and that means investing in our clean energy future.
Read Muro's full post at the New Republic here.