The state of play of the Energy Bill

The prospects for a successful reconciling of the House and Senate energy bills remains as iffy today as it was last month. How sad such failure would be at a time of record oil prices and a growing consensus of the need for urgent action on climate change.

The big obstacle right now is that Senate Republicans oppose a House-Senate conference. E&E News (subs. reqd.) reports:

“It looks like Senate Republicans are not going to agree to a conference, so we will probably see the same process on this bill that we saw with several other pieces of legislation this year,” [Henry] Waxman [D-CA] told reporters after the meeting.

What is this alternative process?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) intends to reconcile the House and Senate energy bills without convening a formal conference committee.

Even this approach is no guarantee of success, as many roadblocks remain in Congress and the White House:

The Senate measure would raise auto efficiency standards and greatly expand the national renewable transportation fuels mandate. The House-passed bill would create a national renewable electricity standard and advance a package of renewable energy and efficiency tax incentives funded through higher taxes on oil companies.

Markey said he is hopeful a final deal would include an increase in fuel economy standards. The Senate-passed bill would boost corporate average fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon for cars and light trucks by 2020.

Pelosi has said she favors this plan. But [John] Dingell [D-MI], an ally of Detroit automakers who oppose the Senate CAFE plan, favors a less aggressive approach.

As for the Bush administration, a senior Energy Department official earlier this week called generally for completion of an energy package this year.

“We are confident a good bill can be agreed to and sent to the president’s desk by the end of this session,” said DOE Deputy Secretary Clay Sell in a speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.

The White House has threatened to veto the House energy bill, claiming the tax title and other oil and gas provisions would stymie domestic production. It has also threatened to veto the Senate-passed bill over language on gasoline price-gouging and the “NOPEC” provision that seeks to allow antitrust actions against OPEC nations in U.S. courts.

Sell praised elements of the Senate plan while renewing administration attacks on the House-passed bill. He said the auto efficiency plan backed by the White House is “largely reflected in the Senate bill” but needs to be “tweaked.” The administration is proposing roughly 4 percent annual increases in fuel economy but objects to lawmakers setting a specific mileage standard in statute.

If you want an energy bill with the best provisions of the House and Senate, now would be a good time to make your opinions known to your members of Congress.

3 Responses to The state of play of the Energy Bill

  1. David B. Benson says:

    And here is an important link to pass on to your congresscritters:

  2. Paul K says:

    Listening to Speaker Pelosi today, I learned that this bill was originally passed and sent to the Senate as AGW specific to take tax subsidies away from the oil companies and give them to alternative energy producers. The tax subsidies were enacted at a time when the price of oil was low and companies were struggling. Having worked correctly, the subsidies are no longer needed but, like the Depression Era tax on your phone bill to pay for bringing phone service to rural America, they remain in place. It is a good idea to give the subsidies to somebody else. Now this simple, targeted, clean and above all passable and signable bill that would bring immediate positive results has been turned into an unpassable and likely to be vetoed mess.

  3. Thank you for the update on the energy bills. Although many environmental websites emphasize personal conservation measures, legislative reform is a critical to reducing the future impact of global warming. And in order for environmental legislation to be passed, activists need sites such as this one that provide timely, detailed updates.