Friday, December 07, 2007

Senate Stops Energy Independence And Security Act 53-42

Dec 7: Vowing to work over the weekend on a compromise to resolve differences in the House-passed energy bill, the Senate brought a quick halt to the momentum to pass comprehensive energy legislation -- the Energy Independence and Security Act .

With harsh criticism from Republicans, and threats of a veto from the White House, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 235-181 to pass the comprehensive House-Senate "compromise" energy bill. The bill is a mix of the Senate passed H.R. 6, which passed on June 21 [See WIMS 6/22/07] and H.R. 3221, that passed the House on August 4 [See WIMS 8/4/07]. The compromise bill, which was negotiated without a Conference Committee, temporarily took the form of H.Res.846, and has now become the new version of H.R. 6. In the end, the bill which is being called bipartisan by Democrats received 221 Democratic votes and 14 Republican votes. Seven Democrats voted against the bill along with 174 Republicans. Sixteen members did not vote on the bill -- 11 Republicans and 5 Democrats.

The Senate began its consideration of H.R. 6 bill for final adoption early on December 7, and quickly voted on a cloture motion which was unable to obtain the necessary 60 votes (53-42) and thus has temporarily suspended Senate floor action on the bill. Democrats voting against the cloture vote included: Bayh (D-IN); Byrd (D-WV); and Landrieu (D-LA). Republicans voting for the cloture motion included: Collins (R-ME); Thune (R-SD). Both Independents, Sanders (I-VT) and Lieberman (ID-CT), voted for the cloture motion. Five Republicans did not vote on the measure.

Following passage in the House, Senator Pete Dominici (R-NM), Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee issued a statement outlining many Senate Republican issues with the bill. Domenici indicated that he spent weeks negotiating with Democrats in the House and Senate to draft a bipartisan energy bill that contained a Renewable Fuel Standard, strengthened CAFE standards, and provided for energy efficiency improvements. However, he said, "after agreement had been reached on most issues, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi backed out of the deal, and inserted several costly and controversial measures into the energy bill."

Domenici said, "...the Senate will be asked to pass a bill that was drafted behind closed doors by a select few House Democrats. The process by which this bill has been drafted is unprecedented. The Senate should not be forced to accept a bill written by Speaker Pelosi behind closed doors with no input from the Senate. For that reason alone, Senators should oppose this legislation and insist to be heard. I will do everything in my power to defeat this measure so we can get to work on a bipartisan bill that will tackle our problems, not add to them.

"Unlike the agreement reached by House and Senate negotiators, the House bill contains a one-size-fits-all Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) which would mandate that 15% of our nation’s electricity supply come from renewable sources. However, many states, particularly those in the Southeast, lack the natural resources to meet the standard. As a result, utilities in those states would be forced to pay billions in fines, leading to higher electricity costs for consumers. Industry estimates put the cost of the House RPS proposal at over $95 billion by 2030.

"The Pelosi energy bill also contains $21 billion in tax increases on domestic oil and natural gas production. Over $13 billion of that total is achieved by repealing provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which make it easier for American companies to compete in the global oil market, which is dominated by Saudi, Russian, and Chinese state-owned companies. By increasing the cost of doing business for American companies, the House energy bill will lead to higher prices at the pump and could result in an increased reliance on foreign oil.

"The House bill also significantly weakens the Renewable Fuels Standard by allowing for the EPA Administrator to completely cancel the mandate after 2016, which will create uncertainty in the market. The House also seeks to punish ethanol because it is transported in trucks, by including transportation and land-usage as factors in the requirement that biofuels have 20% lower greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum it displaces."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the floor in support for the Energy Independence and Security Act just prior to final passage and said "...this is a very important day for our country." She said, “This vote on this legislation will be a shot heard ‘round the world for energy independence for America." She thanked may Representatives who contributed to the passage with a special thanks to Representative John Dingell (D-MI), Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, who was largely responsible for the deal struck on Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.

She said, “This is about our national security, it’s about jobs and the economic security of our country, it’s about the environment, therefore it’s a health issue, and it’s a moral issue. That’s why we have scientists and evangelicals. We have business and labor. We have the environmental community all strongly supporting this legislation." She indicated that over 20 generals have signed a letter saying that "we have to move in this direction in terms of reversing global warming."

She said that consumers will save $700 to $1,000 as a result of this bill per year resulting in $22 billion by 2020. She said, “It’s an historic day because it’s been so long since we have come to a place where we are, as has been said, over 30 years since we have addressed this issue in this substantial way in the Congress of the United States. The point of this is, ‘Are we about the past or are we about the future?’ I hope that we can have strong bipartisan support for this legislation. We were able to accomplish in this 12-month period, as Mr. Emanuel said, what was not done in 32 years in the Congress of United States."

In her previous letter to Allan Hubbard, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council, responding to White House concerns about the bill [See WIMS 12/6/07], Pelosi had indicated the legislation contains an ambitious national renewable fuel standard that will significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil; it reforms and strengthens the CAFE fuel economy standard for cars and trucks, setting a tight goal of 35 miles per gallon as a fleetwide average by 2020; and increase domestic energy production by promoting homegrown renewable fuels and domestic renewable energy. She said specifically the legislation would not: affect our relations with other countries; not impose price controls; and not significantly expand the application of Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements. She said it includes provisions to "pay for our investments in domestic renewable energy resources by closing tax loopholes given to large oil and gas companies at a time that they are reporting record profits." And, the legislation contains a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) which requires states to derive a percentage of their energy from renewable sources.

With a much different point of view, Republican's were harshly critical of the bill and called the "bipartisan" claims a mystery. Representative Joe Barton (R-TX), Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said, “The bill before us is a change. It may be historic but it is not positive. We are moving from a market-based energy policy, which has served this economy well for over 150 years to a government-mandated energy policy mandating 36 billion gallons of biofuels which don’t exist and probably won’t exist.

“We are mandating that 15 percent of all investor-owned utilities be generated by renewable means where in some states that is physically impossible. We are mandating that we improve automobile fuel economy to 35 miles per gallon by a date certain, which while technically feasible, is going to be very expensive and probably raise the average price of an automobile several thousands of dollars. We are mandating all of these things in the interests of energy security, which is a noble goal but I think we would be better off developing the domestic resources of our great land, just like it says up there in the quote from Daniel Webster, instead of engaging in government mandates which will raise costs and probably not increase supply.”

Following the failed cloture vote, Senator Dominici issued a second release saying, "Now that we’ve rejected this one-sided bill, I hope that the Senate can now go back to the agreement that we originally reached with the House. Much of the hard work has already been done. An energy bill that contains a CAFE compromise, a strong Renewable Fuels Standard, and energy efficiency improvements is the right approach, and I’m willing to go back to work on such a bill right away.”

Access a release and the letter from Speaker Pelosi (click here). Access legislative details for H.Res.846 (click here). Access links to the full text of House Report 110-474 (click here). Access the summary of House amendments to the Senate amendments to H.R. 6 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 6 (click here). Access the House roll call vote on the final passage (click here). Access the statement from Senator Domenici (click here). Access a second release from Senator Domenici (click here). Access the Senate roll call vote on cloture (click here). [*Energy, *Climate]

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