- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Democrat-led House yesterday passed a $16 billion tax increase on the oil industry to pay for renewable energy and conservation incentives ignoring the White House’s charge that it will raise gas prices and reliance on foreign oil.

It then gave President Bush a victory by temporarily expanding the administration’s eavesdropping authority on foreign terror suspects last night before taking up the Pentagon’s 2008 budget plan, which Democrats said they would not use to try to alter Iraq war policy.

The push toward the summer recess ends months of partisan discord and gives legislators 28 days to recharge for renewed battles over a trio of issues that have hamstrung Congress since Democrats took control in January: the Iraq war, immigration reform and spending.

Democrats said the energy package is a step toward weaning the nation off fossil fuels and their emissions, which many scientists blame for global warming. They also say the proposal will create jobs in the growing renewable energy industry.

“Energy independence is a national security issue, an environmental and health issue, an economic issue and a moral issue,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. “We must strengthen our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”

The two bills in the package offer tax credits and incentives for research, development and production of clean energy from renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal, as well as biofuels and hydroelectric power. It rolls back about $16 billion in tax breaks for the oil industry to finance these incentives.

Republicans said the bills do nothing to increase the production of domestic oil and coal and will lead to higher energy prices.

“The U.S. has been the world’s No. 1 industrial economy since just after the Civil War, we did so by using our coal, our oil, our natural gas and our brains to create and use more energy to amplify human strength to do more things than any of our competitors on earth,” said Rep. Don Young, Alaska Republican. “Our competitors in the world would like us to rest.”

The Bush administration has threatened to veto the package, which it says is not a serious attempt to increase energy security or address high energy costs.

Unlike an energy bill passed this summer in the Senate, the House bills don’t include measures to increase the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards and to increase the use of corn-based ethanol as a substitute for gasoline.

The Senate version calls for cars and trucks to reach energy efficiency levels of 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

The differences will be hammered out when the bills are merged.

The House’s “energy independence” bill passed yesterday by a vote of 241-172, with 26 Republicans supporting the measure and nine Democrats voting no.

The oil tax bill was approved by a vote of 221-189, with nine Republicans voting yes and 11 Democrats voting against the measure.

Later last night, the House, heeding Mr. Bush’s call for action, voted 227-183 to override a court ban on secretly listening without a warrant on the communications of overseas terror suspects routed through U.S. telecommunications networks.

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