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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Herseth Sandlin vs. Noem: Renewable Energy Standard

Part 6 of the Madville Times' South Dakota State Fair Congressional Debate analysis

Question 5 in Sunday's debate: Where do you stand on the national renewable energy standard?

Herseth Sandlin said she helped get the votes for the renewable energy standard in the 2007 energy bill. She said energy efficiency is the easiest part of meeting such a standard. She said she will support an even higher standard and that our electric cooperatives and investor-owned utilities have led the way in this area. A national renewable energy standard, she said, is essential for our wind industry.

Herseth Sandlin then returned to bipartisanship. She pointed to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham's proposal for a broader clean energy standard. She said Graham and other lawmakers from the South want nuclear and hydroelectric power included with efficiency, wind, and solar in meeting any energy standard. Herseth Sandlin says there's a workable bipartisan compromise to be had there.

Kristi Noem agreed that the renewable electricity standard is good. She said she's heard people across the state say it's good for South Dakota. Noem does not support raising that renewable standard to 20% or 25%. She said very few co-ops could meet that high of a standard without raising utility rates, and we can't pass costs on to consumers in the middle of a recession when they can't afford it. Noem said we can't pass any legislation that would take more dollars out of our pockets. (Hmmm... can't take money from Americans, can't raise the debt ceiling... so in terms of paying down the debt, that leaves only one option: shutting down the federal government for six years.)

Assessment: Bipartisanship is one of Herseth Sandlin's favorite talking points. She ties this question to bipartisanship with a specific proposal and lawmaker. Not taking money out of people's pockets is one of Noem's talking points. She returns to it by appealing to an arbitrary number.

(A number of states, including Minnesota, have already adopted renewable energy standards in the 20–25% range. But the debate judge is supposed to judge the round presented, not the facts he can Google later. ;-) )

Herseth Sandlin approves of current measures and offers a roadmap for workable future action. Noem accepts the status quo, criticizes moving further, but offers no vision for the next step. If you don't want a next step, then Noem's your gal. But in terms of using the debate time to lay out specific plans for action, slight advantage Herseth Sandlin.

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