House passes pork-laden energy bill

The House of Representatives approved broad energy legislation yesterday by a vote of 249 to 183. The 1,000-plus-page bill contains some $12 billion in tax breaks and subsidies for energy companies, less than 5 percent of which go to clean energy or energy conservation. It contains a provision that would funnel $2 billion to deep-water oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. It would open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. It would allow “downwind” states to delay meeting air-quality standards until “upwind” states have met them. And it would protect from liability lawsuits the makers of MTBE, a fuel additive that has contaminated some 1,800 community water systems in 29 states, with projected clean-up costs of $29 billion. All of these measures, say critics, pad the pocketbooks of large political contributors but do next to nothing to solve the country’s long-term energy problems or current high gas prices. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Joe Barton (R-Texas) was philosophical: “Well, isn’t something better than nothing?” The bill’s fate in the Senate is uncertain, but a supportive Bush administration is optimistic.