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A Wind-Powered Town, an Energy Bill and a Lot of Hot Air

Environmentalist Shadia Wood leads a show of hands in protest of coal-to-liquid-gas subsidies.
Environmentalist Shadia Wood leads a show of hands in protest of coal-to-liquid-gas subsidies. (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)

It's unclear why the calm winds of the southeast would trouble a man from Idaho, but he warned that Republicans are "very concerned."

Did that message get out? Not without some difficulty. The Republican event was squeezed in between a Senate hearing on "the impact of rising gas prices," and a pair of House committee sessions on biofuels and "climate change mitigation." Within minutes of the GOP's departure from the television studio, Democrats walked in with a rebuttal.

"We do not believe in the president's theory, the Republicans' theory: Drill, drill, drill, more of the same," Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader, taunted. "It reminds me of Iraq."

The senators displayed a chart contrasting two families: The energy-efficient "Baileys," who spend $1,600 a year less than the inefficient "Martins." "You notice it's not just any old chart," said Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.). "There are families mentioned on that chart."

His colleagues had forgotten to tell Casey that the Martins and the Baileys were fictitious.

The subject had been pretty much exhausted, but Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) wanted to add an anecdote about her own "Energy Star" light bulbs. "My husband first bought the wrong ones and so all of our hallways were blue," she said, "and my daughter said it looked like we were living in a bowling alley."

That line would have brought down the house over in the Cannon Caucus Room, where the renewable energy caucus was caucusing among displays of pea pellets, switch grass and filament-free light bulbs. Exhibitors were on hand to talk about landfill gas and to hand out lollipops and bumper stickers saying "I {heart} Wind Energy."

It was a festive gathering, but Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), a champion of renewable energy, delivered a somber message about progress in the capital. "We've been crawling at a snail's pace," he said. "We've been doing little more than nibbling at the edges."

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