Renewables and Tax Provisions Likely Carved From Energy Bill
More details on the likely energy bill compromise are emerging. It appears that the renewable electricity standard and oil subsidy rollback provisions of the energy bill (H.R. 6/H.R. 3221), are being dropped, perhaps to be considered as a separate bill (per H.R. 2776) either concurrently or in the next year. The associated renewable incentives and research funds paid for by the rollback would have to also be dropped under pay-go rules.The rollback was a key component of Speaker Pelosi’s 100 Hours Agenda:
We will energize America by achieving energy independence, and we will begin by rolling back the multi-billion dollar subsidies for Big Oil.
Reaching agreement on that timetable is likely to require Congressional leaders to drop provisions like a mandate that electric utilities nationwide generate 15 percent of their power from renewable sources, including wind, solar and hydroelectric power. Utilities lobbied intensively against that requirement.
A House-passed measure to repeal $16 billion in tax breaks for the oil industry is also expected to be scrapped, aides said. President Bush threatened to veto the entire package if the oil and gas tax bill were included.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing for a vote next week on compromise legislation aimed at reducing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels, a major source of greenhouse gases. Democratic leaders have wrestled for months with how to meld the Senate bill, which includes a new fuel-economy mandate for auto makers, and the House bill, which would require power companies to use greater amounts of wind, solar and other renewable fuels. With only a few weeks left in the year, Democrats are now considering a new option: moving two separate bills.
One measure would include the proposed fuel-economy increase as well as a proposal to boost production of ethanol and related biofuels. The companion bill would include the utility mandate, as well as a tax package rolling back oil industry tax breaks.
CQ (subs. req.):
With oil nearing $100 per barrel and high prices at the gasoline pump, an agreement on corporate fuel economy standards is perhaps the most significant development to come out of the informal negotiations, which were launched after Republicans blocked a conference because they objected to provisions that would have increased taxes on the oil and gas industry and a requirement to have the nation’s electric utilities produce a percentage of their power from renewable sources.
Those tax and “renewables” provisions were in the House-passed bill but absent from the Senate legislation. Lobbyists said it was likely that they would be taken up next year in a separate bill, or as part of House legislation to address climate change.
EE News (subs. req.):
Sources on and off Capitol Hill said Democratic leaders may try to move the oil taxes and renewable electricity provision as a separate bill, or even abandon them for the year.
A Democratic aide close to the talks said House Democratic leaders “remain committed” to keeping these provisions. But both provisions face Senate roadblocks and would almost certainly draw GOP-led filibusters, which require 60 votes to overcome.
The House bill requires utilities to provide 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020, though roughly a fourth of the requirement can be met with energy efficiency measures.
Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) both support the plan, but it has run into stiff resistance, especially among Southeastern GOP lawmakers who claim their states lack enough renewable resources to meet the mandate.
The renewable electric power standard is a top priority of environmental groups. Marchant Wentworth, a lobbyist for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said environmentalists are fighting to keep the provision alive. “It is a vital part of any comprehensive energy package,” he said.
The Bush administration, however, has issued veto threats over increased oil industry taxes and a renewable electric power mandate.