Dems: energy bill begins fight against global warming
January 19, 2007
WASHINGTON (AP) - Northwest Democrats are hailing a bill to promote
renewable energy, calling it the first of several steps the new
Democratic-controlled Congress will take to combat global warming.
The House bill, aimed at recovering billions of dollars in lost
royalties from offshore drilling, was approved 264-163 Thursday. It
would impose a $5 billion package of fees, taxes and royalties on oil
and gas companies, with the money used to promote renewable fuels such
as wind and solar energy and biomass.
Republicans said the bill would raise gas prices and punish domestic
Democrats rejected that argument and pledged that Congress would
aggressively take on global warming under Democratic leadership.
Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington state was the only Republican from the
Pacific Northwest to support the bill, which Northwest Democrats backed
Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., said the measure "represents a down
payment on our vision for America as a nation that relies on clean,
renewable sources of energy. It is one small step on a long road toward
curing America's addiction to oil."
McDermott and other Democrats said the United States cannot continue to
burn fossil fuels in the 21st century as it did in the 20th century.
"Global warming is real, and our response had better begin sooner
rather than later," McDermott said.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., called the vote an about-face from energy
policy under congressional Republicans.
"After 12 years of failure to deal meaningfully with a comprehensive
energy policy, today under Democratic leadership we're starting in
the right direction," he said. "Americans understand this will take
more than 100 hours, ... but eliminating unnecessary subsidies to form
a fund to support alternative energy, conservation and (combat) global
warming is a terrific start."
The energy legislation was the last of six high-priority issues that
House Democrats had pledged to push through during the first 100 hours
of Democratic control.
Republicans complained that the bill singled out the oil industry for
punitive tax treatment.
"A strong domestic energy supply is vital to our economic and
national security. Raising taxes on oil and gas manufacturing, above
other manufacturing in this country, does nothing to reduce our
dependence on foreign oil and will increase gas prices for American
consumers," said Rep. Cathy McMorris, R-Wash.
McMorris said she agrees with Democrats on the importance of funding
renewable energy projects and believes it is time for Congress to
"take serious steps in developing new energy technology such as fuel
cells, biodiesel, wind power and hybrid technology."
The oil industry has been lobbying hard to try to block the tax and
royalty provisions - if not in the House, perhaps in the Senate.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said the Senate is likely to pursue
broader legislation to fix what she characterized as an oil and gas
royalty program "riddled with blatant mismanagement."
As the House began debate on the energy measure, Interior Inspector
General Earl Devaney told a Senate hearing Thursday that the
department's Minerals Management Service showed "a shockingly
cavalier management approach" in dealing with an error in deep-water
drilling leases for the Gulf of Mexico issued in the late 1990s.
Because of the government error, the leases did not contain a trigger
for royalties if prices soared - as they have in recent years.
Devaney said the mistake was ignored for at least six years by the
minerals bureau, even though the problem was known within the agency as
early as 2000.
"Today's hearing proved that the more we learn about the MMS
program to collect these royalties, the more problems it seems to
have," said Cantwell, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural
Resources committee. "The American people deserve a fair return on
the natural resources they own, not more giveaways to oil companies
already enjoying record profits."