Congress Nears Conference on Energy Bill 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 22 Oct 2007 22:12:00 GMT

From CQ:

After negotiations with key Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday he was prepared to seek a conference with the House on energy policy legislation.

“The Speaker wants to go to conference. I want to go to conference,” Reid, D-Nev., said on the floor Friday. “We know we can’t do a bill unless we include the Republicans in it.”

The unanimous consent to move to conference was blocked on a procedural basis by John Cornyn, R-Texas, Friday afternoon because many senators were traveling, but no objections were expected this week.

That said, the battle over CAFE standards remains strong, with the auto industry lobbying hard for the weaker Hill-Terry language (HR 2927). Last week GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner met with Al Hubbard, director of the National Economic Council, Nicole Nason, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and EPA officials, and Ford CEO Alan Mulally is expected in DC this week.

Meanwhile, the natural gas industry is calling for expanded drilling:
The American Petroleum Institute, Independent Petroleum Association of America, and seven other trade associations representing natural gas producers, pipelines, and consumers jointly expressed strong concern Oct. 19 about US House energy legislation that they believe would reduce instead of increase domestic gas supplies. . . . The 2005 Energy Policy Act contains several provisions to encourage production in frontier areas, including ultradeep water, ultradeep gas, and offshore Alaska, which HR 3221 seeks to repeal, they said.

Congressional Leaders Moving Forward on Closed-Door Energy Bill Negotiations 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 15 Oct 2007 18:31:00 GMT

From CQ Greensheets and Detroit News reports on movement on the inter-chamber energy bill negotiating process:
  • The controversial standard legislation – fuel economy (CAFE) and renewable fuels (RFS) from the Senate bill (HR 6), and renewable energy (RPS) from the House bill (HR 3221) – “will be worked out behind closed doors between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid”, with staff-level discussions this week
  • Opponents of the CAFE legislation in the Senate bill continue a last-ditch effort to advocate Hill-Terry (HR 2927) and get Senators to switch their votes. The coalition, led by Energy and Commerce chair John Dingell, includes:
  • Dingell’s staff is meeting with the leadership staff for the closed-door negotiations, but he is leaving the door open to blocking the energy bill: “I’m not foreclosing any option. I don’t make the jungle. I just live there.” He also said that trying to get a bill completed before the scheduled October 26 recess “is to invite a disaster.”
    From CQ Greensheets:
    Energy Talks to Begin, But Not on 3 Key Issues By Coral Davenport

    Negotiations on a major energy bill begin Monday — but Democratic leaders have already drawn fire for taking the three biggest and most contentious issues off the table. The three issues those leaders cite as their top priorities in crafting new energy policy — raising vehicle fuel economy standards and setting nationwide mandates for renewable fuels and electricity — will not be up for discussion as Energy Committee staffers from both chambers and parties convene to start hammering out a compromise bill.

    Instead, those highly controversial provisions — which, if enacted, would signal a new direction in U.S. energy policy — will be worked out behind closed doors between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., say congressional aides.

    Whatever bill emerges from the staff and leadership talks will then have to be sent back to both chambers for passage.

    Each of those initiatives passed one chamber, but not the other, this summer as part of a larger energy bill. The Senate passed a measure (HR 6) that would significantly raise fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks and would mandate production of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022. The House bill (HR 3221) would require 15 percent of the nation’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020.

    But lawmakers question whether one bill containing all three contentious measures could make it through both chambers this year, especially as the fuel economy and renewable electricity provisions have divided Democrats, making a majority uncertain. Analysts say that appears to be the reason congressional leaders are keeping those pieces off the negotiating table, and trying to engineer the bill themselves — a strategy that has drawn plenty of criticism from Republicans.

    “I think the notion of establishing a negotiation framework where the three biggest elements of the plan are off the table is a fraud,” said Chris Tucker, communications director for House Republican Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

    Many Republicans may not even attend the initial negotiations, in order to protest their inability to weigh in on the three key pieces. “At this time it’s unclear if Republicans are going to be attending talks on Monday,” said Matt LeTourneau, a spokesman for Senate Energy Committee Republicans. “One of our sticking points is that certain items are off the table. The issues that took up so much time on the Senate floor and House floor are not open for discussion.”

    Charges of partisan perfidy in energy negotiations are not new: In 2003, the Republican chairmen of the Senate and House energy committees, Sen. Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico and Rep. W.J. “Billy” Tauzin of Louisiana, privately drafted a proposal for consideration by conferees on a major energy bill — a process one Democratic aide called “the illusion of inclusion.” The plan eventually won conference approval amid partisan bickering, but the bill ultimately failed.

    Fuel Economy

    While key issues may be off staffers’ negotiating table, that doesn’t appear to have deterred a major lobbying push on at least one of them: raising corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standards.

    Efforts to legislate better vehicle mileage have been stalled for more than 20 years, but this summer’s Senate energy package included a provision that would require manufacturers to raise vehicle fleet averages to at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020 for cars, light trucks and sport utility vehicles.

    Pelosi has said she strongly supports incorporating that provision in the final energy deal, but it has met with powerful pushback from a broad group of opponents, including The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the influential Blue Dog Coalition, a group of fiscally conservative House Democrats. In the past, these groups have pushed against moves to raise CAFE standards entirely — but now they are pushing instead for a more modest House bill (HR 2927) by Reps. Baron P. Hill, D-Ind., and Lee Terry, R-Neb. Their bill would leave separate regulations in place for cars and “light trucks,” such as sport utility vehicles, while setting the overall fuel economy at 32 miles per gallon to 35 mpg by 2022.

    That has brought along the support of groups that have previously opposed all efforts to tighten fuel economy standards, but who now say they would support a raise with separate standards for cars and light trucks. The push includes influential groups that depend on light trucks to do business, including the American Farm Bureau Federation; the American Recreation Coalition; Associated General Contractors; International Professional Rodeo Association; National Association of Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Contractors; and the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. Another key supporter of the Hill-Terry bill is powerful House Energy Chairman John D. Dingell, D-Mich., who has long been a key opponent of any raise in fuel economy standards, but has cosponsored the Hill-Terry measure.

    Counter-lobbying by environmental groups is also in full force. “What this effort really boils down to is nothing more than an 11th-hour attempt by a boatload of lobbyists to scuttle a boosted fuel-economy standard that the Senate already passed,” said Deron Lovaas, a vehicles expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    But staffers say the Democratic leadership’s “off-the-table” strategy will likely keep that proposal out of discussions and the final product. “The chances for Hill-Terry getting into the mix are very slim,” said a Democratic leadership aide.

    From Detroit News:
    Doors close on energy bill

    WASHINGTON – Rep. John Dingell, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is disappointed a House-Senate committee won’t tackle legislation to improve the fuel economy of the nation’s vehicles.

    Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has chosen Democratic leaders to write an energy bill – which would include provisions on fuel economy – behind closed doors, rather than through a conference committee of House and Senate negotiators. She cited Senate Republican opposition to appointing members.

    “We cannot have a situation where if they don’t give us a conference, we don’t have a bill,” Pelosi said. “With or without a conference, we will proceed.”

    However, Dingell, D-Dearborn, said conference committees “frankly work and (have) produced good legislation.” He said conference committees allow legislators of both parties to work together to produce a compromise that will make good law.

    “It ought to be permitted to work, and the speaker has chosen otherwise,” Dingell said in an interview Friday. “I’m not going into this with a chip on my shoulder. I intend to try and work with her to achieve a good bill.”

    In June, the Senate passed a bill 65-27 that hikes corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, 40 percent – to a combined standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Automakers have argued that bill would cost them billions. Dingell and the automakers have backed a House bill that’s softer than the Senate’s and gives automakers more time to comply.

    In a formal conference committee, Dingell would have more leverage to strike a compromise.

    Now, “Nancy Pelosi can write a bill in a dark room on the back of a napkin,” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, said on Friday.

    Dingell wouldn’t divulge whether he would mount an effort to kill an energy bill that was too harsh on automakers. “I’m not foreclosing any option,” he said. “I don’t make the jungle. I just live there.”

    Dingell stressed too that he has not been cut out of the process. His staff will meet today with Democratic leadership staff to discuss the energy bill.

    Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesman, said Friday there would be “talks” at the staff level this week and that the House speaker – who supports the Senate measure – hopes to have a bill completed before year’s end.

    Trying to get a bill completed in “two weeks is to invite a disaster,” Dingell said. He said the Senate bill “has serious problems in the House.”

    More than 170 House members have backed a rival fuel economy bill – dubbed “Hill-Terry” after its sponsors – that would increase fuel economy mandates at least 28 percent by 2022 to between 32 mpg and 35 mpg.

    Auto lobbyists are growing worried that a bill similar to the Senate bill might be passed before the end of the session.

    Privately, they have been lobbying some senators to reconsider their support of the bill that passed in June.

Markey Calls Out Toyota On "Impossible" CAFE Standards

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 04 Oct 2007 19:59:00 GMT

Toyota is now responding to NRDC’s challenge to drop its opposition to the Markey-Platts CAFE standard increase (since echoed by UCS and Ed Markey, and written up by Tom Friedman):
There are various bills before Congress that would mandate a new target of 35 mpg by 2020 and require both cars and trucks to meet that standard. Our engineers tell us the requirements specified by these proposed measures are beyond what is possible. Toyota spends $23 million every day on research and development but, at this point, the technology to meet such stringent standards by 2020 does not exist.

Toyota has long supported an increase in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. Moreover, Toyota has always exceeded federal fuel economy requirements. We are continuously striving to improve our fuel economy, regardless of federal mandates.

Toyota currently supports a proposal known as the Hill-Terry bill, HR 2927, that would set a new standard of up to 35 mpg by 2022 (up to a 40% increase) and maintain separate categories for cars and light trucks. Although this won’t be easy, we believe it is achievable.

House Energy Independence and Global Warming Committee chairman Ed Markey responds: “Apparently the only thing that separates Toyota from the ‘impossible dream’ of 35 miles per gallon here in the U.S., is a flight across the Pacific Ocean,” as Toyota meets Japan’s (and Europe’s) fuel efficiency standards of greater than 40 MPG, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation.

Toyota "Dear Colleague" Letter about NRDC Campaign

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 03 Oct 2007 17:16:00 GMT

Forwarded to Hill Heat (as always, I’m reachable at [email protected]):
A Message from Irv Miller

Dear Associate:

Toyota is currently the target of a campaign by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that accuses us of opposing increases in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars and light trucks. The assertion by this group that we are actively lobbying against increased fuel economy standards is just flat wrong, and we want you to be aware of the company’s position on this important issue and the facts.

FACT: Toyota has long supported an increase in the CAFE standards. Moreover, Toyota has always exceeded federal fuel economy requirements. We’ve never waited for federal mandates. Under the current CAFE standard, an automaker’s average miles per gallon for cars must exceed 27.5 and light trucks must exceed 20.7. Trucks weighing less than 8500 lbs. must average 22.5 mpg for model year 2008, 23.1 mpg in 2009 and 23.5 mpg in 2010.

FACT: There are various bills before Congress that would mandate a new target of 35 mpg by 2020 and require both cars and trucks to meet that standard. Our engineers tell us the requirements specified by these proposed measures are beyond what is possible. Toyota spends $23 million every day on R&D but, at this point, the technology to meet such stringent standards by 2020 does not exist.

FACT: Toyota supports a proposal known as the Hill-Terry bill, HR 2927, that would set a new standard of from 32 to 35 mpg by 2022 (up to a 40% increase) and maintain separate categories for cars and light trucks. That won’t be easy, but we believe it is achievable.

To help set the record straight, I have posted a message on this topic on the company’s blog. To learn more, visit the blog by clicking here—>

Toyota vs. NRDC and Markey on CAFE Standards

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 03 Oct 2007 16:39:00 GMT

Toyota, maker of the 46 MPG Prius*, is lobbying against the Markey-Platts fuel-economy bill (HR 1506), which calls for 35 MPG by 2020, and for the significantly more industry-friendly Hill-Terry (HR 2927) as part of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. (An AAM rep has even commented on this site).

NRDC is challenging Toyota on its blog and with its How Green is Toyota? campaign, which asks people to email the Toyota North America president and stop opposing Markey-Platts.

Irv Miller, Toyota North America’s VP of corporate communications, promoted Hill-Terry on the Toyota blog in July and fired back at NRDC in September.

Today, from Thomas Friedman in the New York Times:
Representative Edward Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who heads the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, said to me that Toyota could meet a 35 m.p.g. standard in Japan and Europe today, “but here — even though they bombard Americans with ads about how energy efficient Toyota is — they are fighting the 35 m.p.g. standard for 2020.”

Mr. Markey said he has tried to persuade Toyota that “a lot of people have bought Priuses or Camry hybrids to fight global warming and reduce our dependence on foreign oil” and “they would be shocked to find out” that Toyota is lobbying against the highest m.p.g. standards for America.

  • The 55 MPG figure was based on the old mileage test. Average real world mileage is 46.8 MPG.

See the blogswarm in action at Hybrid Cars Blog, Green Car Congress, EcoGeek.

Pew Center: Voters Demand Stronger CAFE Standards 2

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 23 Jul 2007 19:31:00 GMT

With a vote on CAFE legislation in the House expected to come next week, the Pew Campaign for Fuel Efficiency today released new bipartisan polling in Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida and Michigan that pulled from more than 30 congressional districts. The surveys found overwhelming voter support for the U.S. House of Representatives to pass CAFE legislation at least as strong as those passed by the U.S. Senate in June. One particular district surveyed was John Dingell’s, Michigan-15.

The polls compared the elements of the Markey-Platts bill (HR 1506) with those of the industry-supported Hill-Terry bill (HR 2927), and found overwhelming, across-the-board support for Markey-Platts across all demographic groups (partisanship, income, type of car, age, etc.). Voters just don’t buy the industry arguments against CAFE standards, believing that cars will continue to be safe and affordable and that the American auto industry and auto workers will be better off as they will be forced to innovate.

As Bill McInturff, the GOP pollster said in the briefing, “There’s really strong Republican support for higher standards, do it quicker, make it binding.” Voters see this as an economic, environmental, national security issue, and would feel better about Congress and their own representative if strong legislation is passed.

Voters in Dingell’s district look like the voters elsewhere.

The pollsters deliberately avoided global warming because they see it as a partisan issue.

Districts surveyed by The Mellman Group (D) and Public Opinion Strategies® July 13-16:

  • OH-4, 6, 9, 11, 12 ,13, 17, 18 (Jordan, Tubbs Jones, Tiberi, Sutton, Ryan, Space)
  • TN-1, 5, 6, 8 (Davis, Cooper, Gordon, Tanner)
  • KY-3, 6 (Yarmuth, Chandler)
  • PA-1, 3, 4, 11, 12, 17 (Brady, English, Altmire, Kanjorski, Murtha, Holden)
  • NC-2, 3, 7, 11, 12 (Etheridge, Jones, McIntyre, Shuler, Watt)
  • FL-2, 9, 16, 17, 18, 20, 22, 25 (Boyd, Bilirakis, Mahoney, Meek, Ros-Lehtinen, Wasserman Schultz, Klein, Diaz-Balart)
  • MI-15 (Dingell)