Democratic News

Energy bill watchers get a recess next week – the Senate is not expected to resume consideration of S. 14 until, well, until it does. Next week, as announced by the Majority Leader, the Senate will commit its time and attention to legislation dealing with taxes, AIDS and the debt limit. (Who knows, there may even be a few more votes on the same judicial nominees.) S. 14, it seems, is destined to be legislative filler – a bill that we jump on and off of. So, what to write/talk about next week? Well, you can write about the Statement of Administration Policy on S. 14. The Administration’s views are predictable: yes to drilling in the Arctic Refuge, yes to repealing consumer protections provided by PUHCA, no to improving vehicle fuel efficiency, no to addressing climate change, no to greater use of renewable energy sources for electricity, etc. You also can report that over the last two years, Senate Democrats have pursued a comprehensive yet balanced approach to energy policy. Note that last year Senate Democrats worked in a bipartisan way to pass energy legislation (by an 88-11 vote) to strengthen our national energy security, safeguard consumers and taxpayers and protect the environment. And point out that, unfortunately, the current legislation falls far short in all three of these areas. We have not concluded that S. 14 is beyond salvage. We’re working hard to get the bill into a shape we can support. Among potential amendments to watch for: Renewable fuels standard. This amendment, introduced today by Sens. Frist and Daschle, would require that the amount of renewable fuels, such as ethanol, used annually in gasoline increase from 2 billion gallons per year to 5 billion gallons within the next 10 years. The amendment also would ban the use of MTBE and waive the oxygen content fuel requirement under the Clean Air Act. Hydroelectric dam relicensing. Would strike language that would give utilities special powers in relicensing proceedings that are unavailable to states, tribes, consumer groups and the environmental community. Indian energy. Would fix a provision in the Indian Energy Title that allows tribes to grant leases and rights-of-way for energy projects without the benefit of an environmental review. Nuclear subsidy I. Would strike a provision in the bill that would require taxpayers to provide $30 billion in federal loan guarantees to assist the nuclear industry in the construction of six new nuclear power plants. Nuclear subsidy II. Would strike the provision in the bill that would provide $865 million for the Department of Energy to build an advanced nuclear reactor in Idaho. Renewable Portfolio Standard. Sen. Bingaman’s amendment would require utilities to generate 10 percent of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020; Sen. Jeffords’ amendment would require utilities to generate 20 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Electricity I. Would prohibit all forms of electricity market manipulation under the Federal Power Act. The amendment also directs FERC to revoke the market-based rate authority of those companies found to have knowingly engaged or intended to engage in efforts to game the electricity market. Electricity II. Would enhance FERC’s merger authority to protect consumers after PUHCA repeal. Hydrogen. Would require the Department of Energy to develop a strategy that includes targets and timetables for hydrogen fuel cell development and aims to get 100,000 fuel cell vehicles on the road by 2010 and 2.5 million by 2020. Offshore drilling. Would remove Section 105 authorizing the Department of the Interior to inventory oil and gas in areas of the outer continental shelf currently that are under moratoria. Tax incentives. This likely amendment includes the energy tax incentives provisions totaling $20.5 billion passed by the Finance Committee on April 2. Dual fuel. Would address the dual fuel loophole. Credits for meeting CAFE requirements are provided for the manufacture and sale of dual fuel vehicles, based upon a statutory formula that assumes that 50 percent of the fuel consumed in such vehicles is alternative fuel. The amendment would extend the program from Model Year 2005 through Model Year 2012 and make the program run more efficiently. Fuel economy. Would require an increase in fuel economy for sport utility vehicles from 20.7 miles per gallon to 27.5 miles per gallon by2011. another amendment would increase the fuel economy standard of passenger vehicles (cars) to 40 miles per gallon by 2015 and the fuel economy standard of non-passenger vehicles (light trucks) to 27.5 miles per gallon by 2015. Also redefines passenger vehicles to include sport utility vehicles, minivans and cross-over utility vehicles. Fuel efficient vehicles. This amendment would provide tax incentives for vehicles that exceed the applicable fuel economy standard by at least 5 miles per gallon. It also would update the "gas guzzler" tax that already exists, which applies to vehicles under a certain fuel economy level. Emissions cap and trade. This McCain-Lieberman amendment would establish an economywide plan to cut emissions by 2016 and would create an emissions trading program. Energy market derivatives. This amendment would provide more authority to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to regulate energy market derivatives, which are used to hedge against the risk of price fluctuations. # # #