- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2007

Republican leaders say they will ask President Bush to veto any energy bill that does not include provisions for increasing domestic production of oil and natural gas.

“One thing this bill does not do is produce any new energy,” Minority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said of the House energy bill.

House Democrats are expected to bring up the bill for a vote tomorrow before adjourning for the August recess. The measure is expected to pass.

The bill adds money for research on renewable energy sources such as sunlight, wind and geothermal heat.

The Senate bill, which passed in June, does not contain the energy provisions House Republicans are seeking. It does raise efficiency standards for cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles from 25 to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, and requires increased production of biofuels.

The House bill does not address fuel-efficiency standards, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said she will not block debate on the issue, opening the door to a floor fight between advocates for the auto industry and those who support eco-friendly standards.

The U.S. auto industry has largely opposed Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, saying it would force them to create smaller and lighter vehicles that are not as popular with consumers as current models.

The Senate and House will have to reconcile differences over CAFE standards before sending the bill to Mr. Bush, who has threatened to veto the Senate measure.

The White House has two objections: language that would allow for criminal penalties for price gouging during emergencies declared by the president and a so-called “NOPEC” provision, which authorizes the Justice Department to bring antitrust lawsuits against members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in U.S. courts.

Rep. Tom Udall, New Mexico Democrat, and Rep. Todd R. Platts, Pennsylvania Republican, plan to introduce an amendment tomorrow that would require utility companies to obtain 20 percent of the electricity they generate from “clean” and renewable sources by 2020. The utilities would be allowed to purchase energy credits from other sources to offset the 20 percent requirement.

“The Udall-Platts Renewable Electricity Standard bill will ensure that more of our electricity is generated cleanly, which will help curb global warming while creating jobs and saving consumers money on their energy bills,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters.

A study by Wood Mackenzie, a nonpartisan energy-research firm, found that an estimated 15 percent increase in renewable energy sources would generate a net savings of $100 billion for U.S. consumers over the next 20 years, and that wholesale energy prices would decrease by 7 percent to 11 percent.

Renewable energy sources were being pushed as crude oil prices rose yesterday to $78.77 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after news that federal oil reserves were smaller than expected. However, news that oil refinery production was on the rise lowered the per-barrel price to $76.53 by the close of business.

Rep. Don Young, Alaska Republican, said a major hurricane or a terrorist attack on an oil refinery could cause severe damage to the U.S. economy if new energy projects are not funded.

“This is the greatest danger facing us,” he said. “Forget terrorism.”