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Democrats pass energy package despite veto threat  

House Democrats on Thursday won passage of a wide-ranging energy bill that would require the first increase in automobile fuel-economy standards in decades.

But the package faces a likely presidential veto due to provisions that repeal tax breaks for oil companies and require utilities to produce a large chunk of electric power from renewable sources.

“This legislation is not perfect … However, when we pass this bill, we will be voting to strengthen our national security, lower energy costs, grow our economy and create new jobs, and begin to reduce global warming,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., ahead of the vote.

The package cleared the House largely along party lines in a 235-181 vote.

The legislation’s fate in the Senate is unclear, however, with lawmakers warning that the renewable energy provision will make it difficult to overcome the 60-vote hurdle required to advance most bills in the Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Democrats threw away prospects for a compromise by adding the tax and renewable energy provisions to the House package.

“Instead of working together to increase the use of renewable fuels and raise fuel economy standards to historic levels without costing American jobs, Democrats added controversial provisions that will increase energy prices and will ultimately be vetoed,” he said, in a statement.

The White House earlier Thursday said President Bush’s senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill if it makes it to his desk.

The administration took aim at provisions added by Democratic leaders this week that would repeal around $13.5 billion worth of tax breaks over 10 years for the nation’s biggest oil companies, as well as a provision that would require utilities to produce 15% of electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

“Specifically, the bill raises taxes in a way that will increase energy costs facing consumers. It would also impose a national renewable electricity standard that would ignore the specific energy and economic needs of individual states,” the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement of administration policy.

The bill would require the first boost in corporate average fuel economy standards since 1975. It would boost requirements by 40% to an industry average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

Under current law, auto makers must meet a fleet average of 27.5 miles per gallon for cars and 22.2 miles per gallon for small trucks, including vans and sport-utility vehicles.

The tax provisions in the bill add a total of $21 billion in new tax incentives over the next decade that are offset by eliminating breaks and raising levies on the nation’s largest oil producers.

The tax provisions include a long-term extension of tax credits for renewable electricity, as well as credits for carbon-capture and sequestration demonstration products; credits for biofuel production, including cellulosic ethanol; tax-credit bonds for renewable energy measures and the extension of other incentives.

Republicans said the renewable energy provisions were unrealistic and would put undue burdens on utilities in states lacking access to resources considered “renewable” under the bill.

“We are mandating that 15% of all investor-owned utilities be generated by renewable means where in some states that is physically impossible,” said Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The mandate also drew concern from some Democrats, including Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell of Michigan.
Dingell backed the package but reminded lawmakers his panel would soon be taking up climate change legislation that would address renewable energy requirements “in a much broader and appropriate context.”

“For those who are concerned about the portions of this bill dealing with renewable fuels and renewable electricity generation, I would say that this is far from the final word on those subjects,” Dingell said in remarks prepared for delivery on the House floor.

By William L. Watts


6 December 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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