Before Congress’ recess, a minority of lawmakers continued to block critical measures that could help break America’s addiction to oil, give consumers real energy choices, recharge our economy, and help solve global warming. Legislation to extend production tax credits for solar, wind, geothermal, and other renewable sources passed the House again and again only to fall short each time in the Senate. Once the legislation fell just a single vote short, with 59 senators voting to end a filibuster.
This week, the House goes back to work with the Senate following suit shortly thereafter. But will the outcome this time be any different?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi is introducing a new energy bill on Tuesday with a vote coming by the end of the week. It’s expected to include several items that have already passed the House like a national goal for getting a portion of our electricity from renewable sources (referred to as a renewable electricity standard, or RES), an extension of critical renewable energy tax credits, and a rollback of subsidies for Big Oil.
Including a renewable electricity standard in this bill would be the strongest signal yet that America is serious about ending our dependence on fossil fuels. “The failure to close debate was a victory for the major oil companies,” reported The Washington Post last December as Senate Republican leadership filibustered a robust energy bill that would’ve set a national renewable energy standard of 15 percent. Right now, a patchwork of state standards fills the void created by the lack of a national standard.
Still uncertain is whether the bill will open more of America’s public lands and waters to Big Oil. In the last eight years, oil and gas drilling on America’s public lands has increased by 260 percent while the price of gas has more than doubled. More drilling has neither lowered gas prices nor eased our dependence on foreign oil — it’s that simple. Even the Bush administration’s own Department of Energy admits more drilling would only cut prices at the pump a few cents more than a decade from now.
Of course, there’s one big question hanging over the entire debate: Will the dynamics be any different now than they were the other times Congress tried to tackle energy this year? In the past, anything strong enough to pass the House would be blocked by Republicans in the Senate. And anything weak enough to slip through that GOP-led filibuster wouldn’t pass muster with House Democrats. Are we heading for another stalemate?
To learn more about the real solutions that would cut our energy costs and ease our addiction to fossil fuels in the National Wildlife Federation’s Don’t be Fooled [PDF] fact sheet.