Can the House and the Senate agree on energy legislation?
The prospects for a successful reconciling of the House and Senate energy bills remain as iffy today as they were last month. How sad such failure would be at a time of record oil prices and a growing consensus of the need for urgent action on climate change.
The big obstacle right now is that Senate Republicans oppose a House-Senate conference. E&E News (subs. reqd.) reports:
“It looks like Senate Republicans are not going to agree to a conference, so we will probably see the same process on this bill that we saw with several other pieces of legislation this year,” [Henry] Waxman [D-Calif.] told reporters after the meeting.
What is this alternative process?
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) intends to reconcile the House and Senate energy bills without convening a formal conference committee.
Even this approach is no guarantee of success, as many roadblocks remain in Congress and the White House:
The Senate measure would raise auto efficiency standards and greatly expand the national renewable transportation fuels mandate. The House-passed bill would create a national renewable electricity standard and advance a package of renewable energy and efficiency tax incentives funded through higher taxes on oil companies.
Markey said he is hopeful a final deal would include an increase in fuel economy standards. The Senate-passed bill would boost corporate average fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon for cars and light trucks by 2020.
Pelosi has said she favors this plan. But [John] Dingell [D-Mich.], an ally of Detroit automakers who oppose the Senate CAFE plan, favors a less aggressive approach.
As for the Bush administration, a senior Energy Department official earlier this week called generally for completion of an energy package this year.
“We are confident a good bill can be agreed to and sent to the president’s desk by the end of this session,” said DOE Deputy Secretary Clay Sell in a speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.
The White House has threatened to veto the House energy bill, claiming the tax title and other oil and gas provisions would stymie domestic production. It has also threatened to veto the Senate-passed bill over language on gasoline price-gouging and the “NOPEC” provision that seeks to allow antitrust actions against OPEC nations in U.S. courts.
Sell praised elements of the Senate plan while renewing administration attacks on the House-passed bill. He said the auto efficiency plan backed by the White House is “largely reflected in the Senate bill” but needs to be “tweaked.” The administration is proposing roughly 4 percent annual increases in fuel economy but objects to lawmakers setting a specific mileage standard in statute.
If you want an energy bill with the best provisions of the House and Senate, now would be a good time to make your opinions known to your members of Congress.