GOV. ED'S energy address coulda used, well, a little more energy.
I can't remember a so-called major policy. speech given or received with less enthusiasm.
He spoke yesterday to a joint session of the General Assembly.
Wait, make that a joint "special session" (ooohh).
He wasn't horrible. But he read his remarks (he should never read a speech; he's better unscripted) as if he had somewhere to go.
He was received like a cure for insomnia.
Those present - and there were lots of empty seats in the Senate area - offered only slight and rare evidence of life as we know it.
There were just three rounds of modest, perfunctory applause.
Rendell even sorta presaged the reaction. From the podium in the ornate House before beginning at 3:15, he told lawmakers, "I'm not so sure doing this late in the day is a good idea."
He was right. And he didn't even need the time reference.
Leaders in the Republican-controlled Senate immediately labeled the guts of his plan dead on the arrival, just as they did when Rendell first offered the same plan back in February.
The 23-minute speech offered nothing new. It restated proposals to create a "comprehensive energy independence strategy," an idea government and politicians have talked up for more than 30 years.
How many times have you heard people in or seeking public office stress the importance of reducing our dependence on foreign oil?
Keys to Rendell's strategy are ramping up in-state production of alternate fuels such as bio-diesel and ethanol, and an $850 million "energy independence fund" - seed money for loans and grants to reduce use or promote renewable energy.
Of the first, he said, "My goal is to insure that to the greatest degree possible energy consumed in Pennsylvania is produced in Pennsylvania by Pennsylvanians."
He wants a billion gallons of home-grown fuels by 2017.
So now might be a good time to stock up on woodchips, switchgrass and agricultural waste.
The energy-independence fund would, among other things, provide rebates to those buying energy-efficient appliances and rebates up to 50 percent for homeowners, businesses and farmers installing solar panels.
You might want to get to your big-box store early.
The money would come from a new "public benefits charge," i.e. tax, on electricity that Rendell says would mean $5.40-a-year more for average households and $888-a-year more for average industrial users.
"Nobody want to pay more for anything, but 45 cents [a month] per household is a small price to pay to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, grow our economy and strengthen our security," Rendell said.
He noted 17 other states and the District of Columbia enacted similar charges on electricity.
But it looks as if Pennsylvania won't be joining that list.
Right after the speech, GOP Senate Leader Joe Scarnati said, "New taxes, new fees don't have any place in the Senate at this time."
Since Republicans control the Senate, it's hard to see Rendell getting his fund anytime soon. The GOP favors less spending and market-driven tax credits rather than loans or grants.
Many states are pushing clean or renewable energy.
California has a law requiring 20 percent of its electricity to come from solar, wind or other clean sources within the next three years. New Mexico wants 25 percent of electricity from renewables by 2020.
But despite the dour tone of Rendell's address, Pennsylvania doesn't appear on the verge of energy death.
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, a Washington-based, nonprofit group monitoring states on energy issues, ranks Pennsylvania 14th in its recent Energy Efficiency Scorecard.
Not great. Not horrible. Sorta like the Guv's address. *
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