Thursday, June 7, 2007

Congressional Energy Debate

A debate over an energy bill that will probably last all year has already been termed "historic," according to US News and World Report.
Key House Democrats pledged to fight energy legislation proposed by fellow Democrat Rick Boucher while many Republicans voiced support for Boucher at a crowded energy subcommittee hearing today.
Henry Waxman, chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said Boucher's discussion draft failed to solve the dual dilemmas of climate change and energy security.
"This discussion draft doesn't step up to the urgent problems facing us," Waxman said. "It blinks and then steps back."
Edward Markey, chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, criticized Boucher's bill for not reflecting "the spirit of what this country wants to see happen." Boucher's discussion draft contains several elements that are anathema to environmentalists. For example, it would overturn the recent Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA that gave the EPA the right to control greenhouse gas emissions and would prohibit states from enacting their own legislation.
"This bill is cutting the legs out from under states just as they are starting to spring forward on greenhouse gas legislation," Markey said. Boucher's proposal also would change the current renewable fuels standard to an alternative fuels standard in order to promote coal-to-liquids production, a fuel that can be used in vehicles. Boucher represents southwestern Virginia, a major coal-producing region.
Critics deride coal-to-liquids as counterproductive because of its heavy carbon content. Boucher's bill would increase corporate average fuel economy standards but not as aggressively as in a bill coauthored by Markey.
But John Shimkus and Dennis Hastert, both Republicans of Illinois, offered support for the Boucher bill. Hastert said it "levels the playing field to get alternative fuels to the market." Shimkus praised its focus on coal, noting Illinois's massive deposits of the fuel. In a sign of how electrified the energy debate has become, Markey and Shimkus agreed on one key point: that the ensuing debate—likely to last till the end of the year—will be "historic."
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