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Waverly and Waterloo Get It. Will Washington?

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Des Moines, IA -- Representatives of fifty cities in Iowa are gathering at the invitation of Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie to brainstorm about how to reduce their city's greenhouse pollution. Most of these cities are already "Cool Cities" and have signed the US Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement. Now they are moving from promise to action, and Cownie is bringing them together so they can beg, borrow and steal best practices from each other.

It's startling to listen to Cownie and officials from Cedar Rapids and Iowa City laying out what they are thinking -- not only conventional strategies like outfitting city street lights with more efficient bulbs, but also stunning new incentives like permitting cities with strong green building and planning codes access to new revenue sources not typically allowed Iowa cities.

And it's disheartening to switch back to our nation's capital where Senator Pete Domenici has mounted a filibuster to block a federal renewable energy goal being offered by his fellow New Mexican Jeff Bingaman. Renewable electricity is one of the most popular and least controversial aspects of energy policy, yet Congress is being held hostage by a Senator whose own state has a much more ambitious renewable goal than Bingaman's very modest 15%.

Meanwhile, the coal industry continues to aggressively lay claim to billions of dollars in federal subsidies for liquid coal, an outmoded technology that would make greenhouse pollution from motor fuels much worse. The oil industry made a run at opening up the outer continental shelf, supporting an amendment by Senator John Warner to allow Virginia to open up its coastline to off-shore drilling for gas. But when other coastal states pushed back, the Senate turned Warner down, 44-43. And Michigan Senator Carl Levin continues his battle to gut the fuel efficiency standards provisions of the Senate bill -- at this point the vote count is very close, and it's not clear if Senate Majority Leader Reid will be able to turn Levin back. Finally, over on the House side, Natural Resources Committee Chair Nick Rahall reported on legislation which would restore many of the environmental standards for oil and gas drilling on public lands which the last Congress had gutted at the request of the Cheney Energy Task Force.