Energy bill passes

Editor's Note: The energy bill easily passed the Senate today (July 29, 2005) by a vote of 74-26. The bill now goes to Bush for his signature.

WASHINGTON, DC, July 29, 2005 (ENS): The House of Representatives passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 Thursday by a vote of 275 to 156. Most yes votes came from Republicans, with a few dozen Democrats, and most nay votes came from Democrats, with a few dozen Republicans.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called the measure "anti-taxpayer, anti-consumer, and anti-environment."

Still, she said it could have been worse but for the actions of Democrats on the House-Senate conference committee that reconciled the two versions of the bill.

"We kept the heat on the MTBE give-away and the massive roll-back of the Clean Air Act until they were withdrawn," Pelosi said. "We fought to protect the Arctic National Refuge, making it too hot for the Republicans to handle - forcing them to withdraw from the energy bill their plan to drill in the pristine wilderness."

"Nonetheless, like its predecessors, this energy bill is a missed opportunity. It does not address the issues that the American people care about - lower gas prices at the pump, a healthy environment, safe water to drink, and cleaner air.

"It is anti-taxpayer with billions of dollars in gifts to the oil, gas, and nuclear industries, including a new production tax credit for eight years.

"Then there is the special gift for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. After the gavel went down on the energy bill conference, a provision was included that sets up a special $1.5 billion fund for the oil industry to conduct research on how to find oil, and a leading contender to host the consortium is Sugar Land, Texas," she said. Sugar Land is the major city in the Texas district DeLay represents.

Consortium members, including Halliburton and Marathon Oil, can receive awards from the fund, explained Pelosi, saying, "There you have it: big oil, Halliburton, and Tom DeLay, all in one neat symbolic package."

"At a time when Congress is trying to scrape together enough federal funding for veterans' health care, Social Security, education, Medicare, and Medicaid, why are we giving away taxpayer money hand over fist to well-established, profitable companies? she asked.

"The energy bill is anti-consumer. It fails to protect consumers from high gasoline prices. It fails to adequately protect consumers from price manipulations and future Enrons. And it fails to protect our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

"Last but not least, this bill is anti-environment. It carves out exemptions for the oil and gas industry from the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Clean Water Act. It also authorizes an oil and gas inventory of the Outer Continental Shelf, opening the door to oil and gas drilling in the protected areas off our shores."

Environmentalists were disappointed that a national renewable energy standard was omitted from the legislation. The standard, proposed by Senator Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat, would have required utility companies to obtain 10 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020.

Although the Senate Energy Conference members gathered unprecedented support for the measure, including that of Republican Senators Pete Domenici of New Mexico and Orrin Hatch of Utah, the House Energy Conference members rejected the measure. Representative Joe Barton of Texas, who chaired the conference committee, led the removal of the renewable energy standard from the bill.

But the measure does include a renewable fuel standard for the first time. It mandates the production and use of 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol by 2012, which is estimated to displace over two billion barrels of crude oil. Proponents say America has a strategic reserve of motor fuels in the cornfields of Illinois, the rice fields in California, and the cane fields of Florida.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2005. All Rights Reserved.

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