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Federal Renewable Energy Standard Gains Momentum

Legislation that would require greater use of renewable energy is gaining support from both parties and both houses of Congress.

Although lawmakers are still debating proposals for placing a cap on greenhouse gas emissions, Congress is likely to pass a bill this year mandating greater use of renewable power for electricity, such as wind, solar and geothermal power.

Support is strong on both sides of the aisle for creating a federal renewable portfolio standard. In the Senate, Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. and chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is working on a bill to require 15% of the nation's power to come from renewable energy sources by 2020.

Despite Senate support, RPS proposals have traditionally died in the House. However, with Democrats in the majority, RPS legislation has a better chance of succeeding. Bipartisan legislation to create a federal RPS has already been introduced that would require electric utilities to get 20% of their retail electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar power by 2020.

Although President Bush has suggested federal goals for renewable fuels, the administration argues that mandatory standards for renewable energy should be made at the state rather than federal level. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman recently told a Senate hearing that if Congress passed a federal mandate, he would recommend that the president oppose it.

American Wind Energy Association Executive Director Randall Swisher says that he nevertheless expects RPS legislation to succeed, citing a state RPS that Bush backed when he was governor of Texas.

"I think he understands," Swisher told Dow Jones Newswires. "I know their official position is to oppose it but let's see what happens."

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