August 26, 2008

Energy Legislation at Last?

Bill Georgevich reporting

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Despite many efforts to pass an energy package, Congress adjourned for summer recess gridlocked and empty-handed. Partisan compromise is essential if we will ever see any real energy legislation. Republicans must give up oil industry tax breaks and Democrats need to budge on the offshore drilling ban. A bi-partisan group of 10 Senators, days before adjourning last month for summer recess, wrote a compromise bill that does just that.

The New Energy Reform Act of 2008 was written in response to the months-long Senate deadlock on energy legislation. The legislation, which could be considered when Congress returns in September, includes limited offshore drilling with increased investment in new energy technologies. A portion of the finding for renewables would come from taking back tax breaks from the oil industry. The bill also sets a goal of fueling 85 percent of the country's automobiles with alternatives to oil within 20 years.

The upside:
  • co-sponsored by a bi-partisan group committed to breaking the energy legislation gridlock in Congress
  • closes tax loopholes for the oil industry
  • maintains the ban on offshore drilling in California
  • extends renewable energy tax incentives that will expire in December
  • invests $20 billion for the conversion of cars and trucks to non-oil fuel sources
  • garnering wide support from liberal democrats, moderates, and Republicans

The downside:
  • permits offshore drilling in parts of the Gulf of Mexico and the east coast (by states' consent)
  • recycling of spent nuclear fuel

Given the many bones of contention between the two parties, it is imperative to accept that a compromise coming from both sides of the aisle is the only solution to the impasse. Republicans need to give in on oil industry tax loopholes so that the renewable energy tax credits can be paid for. Democrats need to budge on their intractable stance on offshore drilling.

This bill was written just before Congress adjourned in early August. We hope that our Senators give serious attention to this bill when they return on September 4.