August 18, 2008

Countdown to Energy Reform

Bill Georgevich reporting

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This week we begin our Countdown to Energy Reform. While Congress enjoys their August recess, many Americans are wondering, where are the solutions to our energy issues? Despite multiple efforts to pass energy legislation, the Senate has been intractably gridlocked. Time is running out. Essential renewable energy tax credits will expire in December. Join us in our weekly call to action as we contact our vacationing Senators every week until they reconvene in September. This week: send a letter to Senators Obama and McCain.

Congress went on recess in early August without passing any energy legislation. Despite multiple efforts, both the House and Senate danced around the crucial issues of gas prices, offshore drilling, oil-market speculation, and the clean energy tax credits that are expiring in December.

The clean energy tax credits are especially important, because as December draws nearer, more and more investors in various renewable energy projects are getting cold feet. Many have pulled out entirely or are threatening to do so if the extension doesn't happen. Failure to renew these tax credits will be disastrous for our country and the steady momentum towards clean energy that has been taking hold.

Obama and McCain have remained rather detached in Senate activities related to renewable energy legislation. Both were among only a few to abstain on a vote to get a bill that would renew clean energy tax credits on the floor for debate. And both have shown some allegiance to the big oil industry that so handsomely finances their presidential campaigns. In 2005, Obama voted for an energy bill backed by Bush that included billions in subsidies for oil and natural gas production. In June of this year, in the weeks following McCain's embrace of offshore oil drilling, contributions from the oil and gas industry poured in ($1 million, in fact, compared to $116 K in March, $283 K in April and $208 K in May).

When the Senate reconvenes on September 4, they will be greeted with a new, bi-partisan energy bill, the first to offer a compromise to the wide philosophical and political schism that has prevented any passage of renewable energy tax credits. The New Energy Reform Act of 2008 is very promising, and couldn't come a moment too soon.

Obama has shown support of the bill, in recognition of the hope that it will end "partisan gridlock and special interest influence" and bring to the Senate "a good faith effort at a new bipartisan beginning."

McCain has remained very quiet about the bill, but most likely will not support it, for at least 2 reasons: one, the bill will take away subsidies for the oil and gas industry, which McCain adamantly wants to keep in place; and two, the bill allows for very limited offshore oil drilling (none at all off the California coast). Learn more about the bill here.

And if you haven't already, we invite you again to send a letter to Senators Obama and McCain on the very important and timely matter of energy policy.