Monday, September 22, 2008

Financial Crisis Delays Work On Energy Crisis

Sep 22: Following last week's unraveling of the financial fabric of the country and an emergency proposal for a near trillion dollar (and growing) bailout of Wall Street it appears the financial crisis will take precedent over the energy crisis which was "top dog" just a few days ago. Before the impact of the financial crisis was fully realized last week, the House managed to pass an energy bill [Comprehensive American Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 6899), See WIMS 9/17/08] over the objections of Republicans and Presidential veto threat. On the Senate side key Senators had apparently worked out a bipartisan plan for clean energy tax incentives totaling approximately $17 billion [H.R. 6049 (Energy and Tax Extenders Act of 2008, See WIMS 9/18/08]. While the legislation was expected to be debated and voted on Tuesday, September 23, it is now uncertain whether it will be considered or delayed.

Already, the "Gang of 10 (now 20)" has announced it will delay introducing its revised version of a comprehensive bipartisan energy legislation (New Energy Reform Act of 2008, better known as New Era) until after the election. According to a September 19, release from Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), leaders of the "Gang of 20", "Unfortunately, with the fiscal crisis unfolding, time to debate a comprehensive energy policy is not available. Instead, we will share our plan with our colleagues and ask that the New Era bill be among the first orders of business when Congress reconvenes.”

The bipartisan proposal includes what the coalition of Senators are calling an historic investment in research and development in an effort to transition new vehicles to non-petroleum based fuels by 2020. The new version of the proposal expands "responsible measures" to increase offshore drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf and remains committed to expanding renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal. Additionally, the plan includes consumer tax credits to purchase advanced fuel vehicles and increases nuclear power generation. Finally, the new version of the plan is completely paid for with no net tax increase and no net spending increase.

Conrad and Chambliss said, “Our group is strong and committed. We have accomplished something positive on Capitol Hill. We have formed a bipartisan group of Senators that continues to put progress ahead of politics. The New Era proposal has dramatically advanced the energy debate in Congress. The reason our group formed and the reason we remain together is because we all want to see a serious, comprehensive energy policy that can be enacted into law. We are extremely proud of this Gang of 20 and remain committed to working together to lessen our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and strengthen America’s economy.”

The coalition of 20 senators -- 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats -- has worked for the past three months to develop New Energy Reform Act of 2008. The Senators, in addition to Conrad and Chambliss who developed the proposal include: Senators John Warner (R-VA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Susan Collins (R-ME) Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), John Sununu (R-NH), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Tom Carper (D-DE), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Ben Nelson (D-NE), John Thune (R-SD), Mark Pryor, (D-AR), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Bob Corker (R-TN), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

In anticipation of the Senate consideration of the clean energy tax incentives, Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) delivered a statement on the Senate Floor and cheered the compromise and urged his colleagues to support it. Senator Bingaman said, "This compromise will enable us to become a more energy efficient nation and wean us off our dependence on fossil fuels. It extends the production tax credit by one year for wind energy and by two years for other qualified renewable resources -- a category that the bill expands to include marine renewable, such as waves and tides. I had hoped that we could achieve a longer-term extension of the PTC [production tax credit], but this is all we could afford within the package’s cost constraints. Undoubtedly, this bill’s extension of the PTC will enable our renewable industries to stay afloat. But today, I renew my commitment to a long-term extension of the PTC, which I hope we will be able to achieve in the next Congress." Bingaman continued with further explanation of the compromise (See link below).

Access a release from Senators Conrad and Chambliss (
click here). Access the complete floor statement from Senator Bingaman (click here). [Energy]