Live debate on House floor Wednesday, says CSPAN.

As gasoline prices go through the roof, and the Department of Energy admits that they are likely to stay at unprecedented levels, the House Energy bill does nothing to bring down the price. As powerful conservative voices like George Schultz demand that we stop putting our national security at risk by continuing our addiction to Middle Eastern oil, the Administration pursues an energy policy explicitly designed to feed that addiction. – From the blog of Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club

Gear up for another big fight in the House, then the Senate. Today’s WaPo: “The House this week will consider $8 billion in tax breaks targeted to the energy industry at a time when some of those companies are enjoying soaring profits from high consumer prices.”

The WaPo article, and today’s NYTimes editorialboth highly critical of the corporate-handout House bill that even ignores some of Bush’s legislative requests — don’t mention the ANWR provision: “The US House of Representatives is quickly advancing an energy bill that would,” we learn from The NewStandard, “allow oil exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).”

Though the cost of the entire energy package is estimated at $8 billion, less than $500,000 of that funding is devoted to encouraging renewable energy and boosting energy efficiency.

Cross-posted at DailyKos. Below: Sierra Club’s Carl Pope on corporate liability waivers in the bill, and more from the WaPo, NYTimes, NewStandard, the Center for American Progress’s Talking Points, and action items:
Choice quotes:

From the new blog of Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club — about payoffs to Tom DeLay’s benefactors:

House Republicans cravenly and crazily gave Tom Delay what he wanted again this year, a “get out of jail free” card for MTBE producers who give Delay a lot of money (some of which he then uses to pay his wife.) The liability waiver, if it passed, would stick municipalities and other drinking water suppliers with up to $29 billion in cleanup costs. Instead of helping out drinking-water suppliers, Delay instead inserted $1.75 billion into the House Energy bill as a “transition” payoff to the MTBE manufacturers for losing their right to sell a defective product that poisons the wells. (In the old days in Texas, they lynched people who did things like this.) Mrs. Delay is, if you look at these numbers, grossly underpaid.

But the MTBE waiver is what caused the whole energy bill to crash and burn in the Senate last year, and the same fate seems to await it if the full House follows the leadership’s orders. The bill also has about $8 billion in total subsidies for the energy industries, but without the liability waiver, the oil and gas boys just aren’t interested. “The MTBE waiver issue is Priority 1, 2 and 3 for the refining industry,” Lawrence J. Goldstein, president of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation in New York told the New York Times. “Without it they aren’t going to get behind the energy bill.” Seems like big oil may have had too long in the wine barrels.

Today’s New York Times editorial — on the typical House corporate payoffs, Bush’s lack of leadership, and missed opportunities:

“The Missing Energy Strategy”: The House is moving quickly and with sad predictability toward approval of yet another energy bill heavily weighted in favor of the oil, gas and coal industries. In due course the Senate may give the country something better. But unless Mr. Bush rapidly elevates the discussion, any bill that emerges from Congress is almost certain to fall short of the creative strategies needed to confront the two great energy-related issues of the age: the country’s increasing dependency on imported oil, and global warming, which is caused chiefly by the very fuels the bill so generously subsidizes.

What’s maddening about this is that there is no shortage of ideas about what to do. …

Today’s Washington Post story — on the tax breaks targeted to the energy industry and the outrage of environmentalists:

“House Energy Bill Increases Tax Breaks: Legislation at Odds With Bush Proposal”: The House legislation, approved last week by the Ways and Means Committee, is at odds with the Bush administration’s approach. The president’s proposed budget calls for $6.7 billion in tax breaks for energy, with 72 percent going toward renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency, compared with about 6 percent in the House plan.

Dana M. Perino, a White House spokeswoman, would not comment on the House measure but referred to comments made by President Bush last week. “I will tell you with $55 oil we don’t need incentives to oil and gas companies to explore,” Bush said in a speech to newspaper editors in Washington. “There are plenty of incentives. What we need is to put a strategy in place that will help this country over time become less dependent.”

Environmentalists are outraged, saying the bill provides giveaways to big energy companies, such as ExxonMobil Corp., whose 2004 profits set a record. The energy bill is just another example of the House Republican leadership overreaching for corporate interests,” said Erich Pica of Friends of the Earth.

They’ve clearly gone on a junk-food diet,” [Navin Nayak of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group] said of the House. “They’ve cut out everything healthy.”

Talking Points from the Center for American Progress:

As Americans contend with surging gas prices at the pump, right-wing leaders are again calling for massive handouts to the energy sector and increased pollution to deal with the crisis.  House legislation likely to move forward this week would provide $8 billion in new tax breaks to oil companies-less than $500 million of which would to go increase renewable energy or conservation efforts-and would do nothing to strengthen fuel economy requirements. 

  • Polluting our air is not sound energy policy.  The House energy plan includes industry-backed measures that would exempt states from cleaning up their air if any pollution comes from other states.  So those living in “downwind” states will be forced to suck up dirty air as long as “upwind” states and their polluters do nothing to clean up their act.

  • Shielding companies that poison our water is not sound energy policy.  The House energy bill also shields the manufacturers of a dangerous gasoline additive MTBE from lawsuits stemming from the contamination of drinking water. The additive has been detected in water sources in 29 states.  Oil giants and their right-wing pawns in Congress are now trying to shield these polluters from any legal liability for dumping poison in our water supplies.

  • Destroying wilderness areas for oil profits is not sound energy policy.  The bill contains yet another sop to big oil by allowing drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. Drilling in the refuge would irreparably harm this fragile area and would do nothing to reign in today’s skyrocketing gas prices.  Increasing fuel efficiency standards would conserve far more oil than could ever be produced from the refuge. 

OUR Wedge Issues: Energy Indepedence, by Frontier PAC — the diary is in the recommended list to your right — lays out some of the political challenges involved.

Maybe our only hope — ultimately — will be a Senate filibuster, reports The NewStandard:

The inclusion of an amendment to allow oil drilling in the Arctic Refuge further heightens a debate that intensified earlier this year when the Senate included a similar provision in its budget resolution.

While the president has argued that allowing energy development in the Refuge would reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, environmental groups have argued that the relatively little amount of oil under the refuge is not worth the environmental destruction that accompanies oil drilling. They have instead called on lawmakers to use the opportunity to address fuel economy and the need for alternatives to fossil fuels.

Debate over the energy bill is expected to take place in the House for much of the week.

The ANWR provision could face a greater challenge in the Senate, where Democrats have threatened a filibuster. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) said she plans to organize a consumer boycott “of any oil company that decides to drill in this pristine Alaskan wilderness area.”

As today’s NYTimes editorial notes, Mr. Bush had better step up to the plate:

Changing the way this country produces and uses energy will require a determined national effort organized by the president, but Mr. Bush, so far, has been content to remain at the rear of a parade he ought to be leading. It will also require a far more adventurous approach from a Congress whose solicitude for special interests has greatly exceeded its concern for the national interest.

See also:

  • “The House’s Dirty Little Bill,” Center for American Progress Action section
  • Progressive solutions (PDF format) to America’s energy needs, from the Center
  • “Change to the Clean Air Act Is Built Into New Energy Bill,” NY Times, April 15, 2005

We’ll all write our House reps and hope it helps. Let’s also forewarn our Senators.

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