Monday, June 18, 2007

Detroit, big coal and polluters stall energy reforms

Coal mine moonscape near Gillette, Wyoming

WASHINGTON -- Debate in Congress on several important energy reforms has unwisely been put off until fall at the earliest.

Earth, our only home, is heating up and our national leaders must get serious about making tough decisions now to curb global warming pollution. The people are way ahead of the politicians on this.

Our future depends on it. We cannot eat, drink or breathe money.

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WALL STREET JOURNAL
House Delays Thorny Energy Issues
By JOHN J. FIALKA
June 19, 2007; Page A4

WASHINGTON -- Facing a tight deadline imposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee postponed until the fall House debates on several controversial energy issues, including tougher standards for automobile fuel efficiency.

It wasn't immediately clear what impact the House move toward a simplified, less-controversial energy measure will have on the Senate version of the bill. The Senate is scheduled to debate auto-efficiency standards and a mandate for coal-based liquid fuels on the floor this week.

Rep. John D. Dingell (D., Mich.), chairman of the House committee, and Rick Boucher (D., Va.) chairman of the subcommittee that is preparing its energy legislation, jointly announced they will focus on less-divisive issues, including energy-efficiency standards for appliances, improvements to the nation's electricity grid and incentives for use of wind power.

"This procedure...was discussed with the speaker, and she understands the rationale for proceeding this way," the two Democrat leaders said, "so we can rapidly work on a bipartisan bill that can be signed into law."

The turnaround by Rep. Dingell, who has defended Detroit automakers against fuel-saving standards for years, comes as automakers have launched a nationwide lobbying campaign to water down proposed tougher auto-efficiency standards. Rep. Dingell promised to return to the issue in the fall, when the committee is also planning legislation that would regulate carbon dioxide and other emissions that scientists say are accelerating global warming.

While the Senate appears to be pressing ahead, it could face filibuster threats on the auto-efficiency standards and several other items, requiring 60 votes to overcome, a margin that may not be attainable. "One of the questions being discussed is which body goes first with some of these things," a House aide said.

"We have decided to proceed with provisions that represent consensus," Messrs. Dingell and Boucher wrote. The energy subcommittee is scheduled to assemble its new version of the energy bill this week, and the House could debate the completed bill after the July 4 recess. Earlier, Speaker Pelosi (D., Calif.) had asked for an "Energy Independence" bill by July 4.

The House committee also deferred discussion of a low-carbon-fuel standard, similar to California's, which would mandate increasing use of ethanol and other fuels that result in lower CO2 emissions. Another postponed issue is a change in federal law that would block California from establishing its own CO2 emissions standards for vehicles.

The two committee leaders said they were postponing debate because the issues "are complex and difficult."

Democrats are deeply split, with representatives from auto-producing states fighting tougher emissions standards, and the California delegation and liberal factions pushing for them. Coal-state Democrats and environmentally inclined Democrats are on opposite sides over coal-to-liquid fuels, which would emphasize diesel and jet fuels made from coal, a fuel the U.S. has in abundance.

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