Federal Energy Bill Flops



For all the passion that went into congressional debates over drilling and gas prices this year, lawmakers failed to pass anything that remotely resembles an energy bill. With the fall election upon us and a lame duck in the White House, it’s increasingly unlikely that Congress will pass an energy bill before Christmas. 

Still, some legislative action this year suggests what Congress might do in 2009. For instance, the House passed an energy bill in September that would have opened more federal waters to drilling and invested additional dollars in alternative energy sources. Both sides of the aisle have called for that kind of mixed approach, yet the Senate has not passed the bill. Republicans complained that the House Democratic leadership authored the legislation with little input and that its drilling component was meager at best. A bi-partisan group in the Senate that included Sen. Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat, likewise pursued legislation to open up additional drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf of the Gulf of Mexico, but Republicans shuddered at the proposition of taxes on oil production. “[That] will only hinder production,” says GOP Sen. David Vitter of Metairie. Rep. Charlie Melancon of Napoleonville says key players in both parties were unable to give because it’s an election year. But Melancon, a Democrat who serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee, is hopeful that the post-election session of Congress will yield some sort of compromise. “We just need more people in the center,” Melancon says. “Some people in the left wing of my party only want to talk about green energy and ethanol, while people on the far right believe the only answer is fossil fuels and won’t even discuss emissions.” The most noticeable gridlock this year was over drilling, or rather how much. Elsewhere, Congress last year passed and President George Bush signed an energy bill that seeks to combat oil market manipulation, increase vehicle fuel efficiency to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 and promote the use of more affordable American biofuels. — Alford

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