Wednesday, September 10, 2008

House Dems Set Stage For Energy Bill Showdown This Week

Sep 9: Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic leaders held a news conference to discuss the comprehensive energy bill to be introduced this week. While details are sparse, it seems that the bill would draw on previous Democratic proposals contained in various bills. One "compromise" appears to be drawn from early efforts of Representative Gene Green (D-TX), leader of an informal group of some 15 Democrats representing energy-producing districts, who proposed the Long-term Energy Assurance and Security Enhancement Act of 2008 (LEASE Act) at the end of July. Some of the legislation would also come from the energy legislation, The National Conservation, Environment and Energy Independence Act (H.R. 6709), led by Representatives Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) and John Peterson (R-PA) with 109 cosponsors proposed in early August [See WIMS 8/8/08]. That bill provided for offshore and onshore leasing and other energy provisions.

Reportedly the new proposal would allow "environmentally responsible oil and gas drilling," with state approval in nearshore areas off some East Coast states and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, the package is expected to include the repeal of tax breaks for oil companies, incentives for natural-gas vehicles, a national renewable portfolio standard and renewable energy incentives.

Speaker Pelosi said, “This week, the House will vote on comprehensive energy legislation that is a result of a reasonable compromise. I am very proud of our Caucus and how we are coming together on this. It will put us on the path toward energy independence by expanding domestic supply. It will protect consumers and taxpayers with strong action to lower the price of the pump and end taxpayer giveaways to Big Oil. It will ensure a clean green future through energy efficiency and conservation, and it will commit America to renewable energy and help create millions of good paying green jobs. It will put us on that path to make America energy independent of foreign oil within a decade. That was a goal of President Nixon in 1970. It wasn’t fulfilled then; it will be fulfilled now.

“This comprehensive energy legislation is the result of serious compromising among Democrats to bring down gas prices now and invest in a renewable future. Republicans must set aside their ‘drill only’ policy; even their own supporters have said we cannot drill ourselves out of this emergency situation. It will come down to this when it comes to energy. Whose side are you on? The side of the American consumer and the taxpayer, or Big Oil?

“If they want to drill offshore we say, ‘Okay, if you want to drill on the outer continental shelf, let’s have a discussion and a change of the relationship between our oil, which is owned by the American people, the desire of Big Oil for us to subsidize their drilling, and us not to, the American people not getting the benefit of the profits.’ So more drilling, no subsidies, and we want our royalties, in order to pay for investments in renewable energy resources, make a strong commitment to LIHEAP and the land and conservation fund, something like that.

“And if you oppose that, what are you saying? ‘I’m for drilling and for subsidized Big Oil and I want all of the profits to go to Big Oil, and I don’t want to visit this relationship of getting the funds that we are owed from the royalties of holidays in the late 90s.’ “It’s pretty exciting because we’re at a crucial place in our energy future and this decision will be an important one, and we want the American people to see the distinction between the Democrats and the Republicans on this. Do you want to drill now on the continental shelf? We want our royalties. No more subsidies for you. We want those subsidies and those royalties for LIHEAP, for renewable energy resources, for a better energy future for our country.”

House Republicans responded immediately. House Republican Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) issued a statement saying "published reports indicated that Democrats’ latest “energy” plan will attempt to offer up a sliver of America’s deep-ocean energy supply in exchange for imposing billions in new taxes, new mandates designed to push electricity rates to historic highs, and permanently locking away nearly 80 percent of our Outer Continental Shelf."

He said, “Having failed to earn support for their previous four energy bills this year, many of us had hoped that Democrats would return from their five-week-long recess ready to work on meaningful energy legislation, and willing to consider an ‘all of the above’ approach to lowering prices at the pump. Unfortunately, what we know of the plan right now suggests it’s just more of the same from this Democratic majority -- written for the specific purpose of allowing those who oppose responsible energy development a chance to say that they support it, confident that no such development will ever take place. In fact, this package would permanently put 80 percent of our offshore resources under lock and key. That’s hardly the kind of comprehensive approach to crafting real energy solutions that the American people are demanding.

"Add in the prospect of billions in new taxes, the resurrection of their discredited ‘Use It or Lose It’ bill, and an unfunded mandate that will cost millions of American families billions in higher electricity rates, and it’s clear this majority’s position on energy remains ‘less is more.’ Regrettably, very little of it will do very much to bring down the price of gas, diesel or electricity – today, tomorrow or in the future.”

Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) in a speech on the House Floor said, "Speaker Nancy Pelosi, you can turn off the lights on the House floor and shut off the mics, but you cannot silence the voice of millions of Americans who say with increasing clarity, ‘Give us all of the above: conservation, alternative energy, fuel efficiency, and drill more, drill here, drill now!’ House Democrats should heed the overwhelming majority of the American people who want this Congress to take immediate action to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, come together and allow the pro-drilling bipartisan majority a fair and open debate on the American Energy Act." [See WIMS 8/13/08, (H.R. 6566)].

Access a release from Speaker Pelosi (click here). Access a release from Representative Blunt (click here). Access a release from Representative Pence (click here). Access an earlier release on the LEASE Act (click here). Access links to various media reports (click here). [*Energy]