(by Brian DeBose, April 22, 2005, WashingtonTimes.com) – The House yesterday passed a bill to reshape the country’s production and consumption of energy, by opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling and increasing the amount of renewable energy sources.
Republican leaders said a long-term and comprehensive energy policy for the nation is long overdue, and dismissed Democratic opponents who criticized the bill for not doing enough to lower gas prices, increase production of renewable fuel sources and fuel efficiency standards.
“For six years now, the president has been saying one of our great failings has been the lack of an energy policy,” said House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican. “It won’t solve [high gas prices] next week or next month or next year, but had we passed it four years ago we would be in a better place today.”
The House voted 249-183 with 208 Republicans and 41 Democrats voting for the bill and 160 Democrats, 22 Republicans and the House’s lone independent opposing the legislation.
Rep. Joe L. Barton, Texas Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he kept his promise to work more closely with Democrats to ensure that the bill got fair treatment on the floor. “We accepted about 40 amendments to this bill and many came from the [Democratic] side,” Mr. Barton said.
The bill will cost about $2 billion a year over the next five years and calls for $8.1 billion in tax credits and incentives for oil and gas producers, car manufacturers and clean coal and nuclear energy plants that produce electricity. The legislation makes it easier to build new liquid natural gas refineries by removing autonomous state restrictions, which Democrats decried as a violation of states’ rights.
It also calls for the government to stay out of the private sector’s way by providing incentives instead of regulating increased usage of clean energy sources such as ethanol gas, solar and wind electricity production and vehicles that use them, such as the hydrogen-fuel-cell cars.
Several amendments were passed to increase research and development grant funding for new fuel sources, biomass, ethanol extraction from sugar cane, and even one to develop a way to burn methane from livestock waste as a fuel.
In a surprisingly close vote, an amendment to remove language from the bill protecting producers of the clean-fuel additive methyl-tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) from certain lawsuits and setting a 2014 ban for the product was closer than expected at 219-213.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, has vowed to filibuster the bill in the Senate as long as the MTBE provisions remain in the bill. New York and 18 other states have banned the use of MTBE, a federally mandated fuel additive that causes petroleum to burn cleaner but has been found to contaminate groundwater.
“It is robbing Peter to pay Paul. It makes the air cleaner but pollutes the water,” Mr. Schumer said.
The Senate is expected to begin debate on its bill this summer.
Copyright 2005 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the Washington Times. This reprint does not constitute or imply any endorsement or sponsorship of any product, service, company or organization. Visit the website at www.washingtontimes.com
1. What two provisions were included in the energy bill passed yesterday by the House of Representatives?
2. What criticism did Democrat opponents have to the bill? How did Rep. Blunt respond to the criticism?
3. What percentage of Democrats in the House voted for the bill? What percentage of Republicans voted for the bill? What factors do Congressmen take into consideration when voting?
4. What type of research and development would be done with the grant funding authorized by several amendments?
5. Why do you think the federal government mandated the additive MTBE be used to make the air cleaner if it has been found to contaminate groundwater? How would MTBE get into groundwater if it is used in petroleum?
6. Make a list of 10 things you use or do that need fuel to operate. (entertainment, transportation, things in your home) Why is it so important to pass a practical energy bill now? Be specific.