The Senate yesterday sent President Bush the first national energy plan to pass Congress in 13 years, a mixture of tax breaks for companies that produce renewable energy, efficiency standards for commercial appliances and an extension of daylight-saving time by four weeks.
Mr. Bush said he will sign the measure into law next week, despite concern from both parties that it fails to immediately address high gas prices and its $12 billion price tag exceeds the president’s initial call for a $7 billion plan.
“The bipartisan energy bill passed today will give America a comprehensive national energy strategy for the first time in more than a decade and is critically important to our long-term national and economic security,” Mr. Bush said.
Senators, who passed the measure in a 74-26 vote yesterday, said the bill will improve the economy going forward and the country’s national security. The bill passed in the House by a 275-156 vote Thursday, with 75 Democrats joining 200 Republicans to support it.
“This bill saves jobs, keeping them here, and creates new jobs,” said Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici. “And you will see a big variety of energy sources come on board that will make us more secure, from renewable energy to nuclear to our most abundant source, coal.”
The New Mexico Republican said the bill will not have any immediate affect on the price of oil, now at $60 a barrel, or gas prices at the pumps, and he said the bill will not curb the nation’s consumption or remove its dependence on foreign sources of oil and natural gas.
The bill includes several provisions for technological research, efficiency and conservation, including:
Increases funding to improve fuel efficiency standards and encouraging the development of alternative sources of energy
Promotes clean and renewable fuels by providing incentives for clean coal technology and other fuels such as biomass, wind, solar and hydroelectricity
Establishes new mandatory efficiency requirements for federal buildings, greater efficiency standards and product labeling for battery chargers, refrigerators, freezers, unit heaters and other household products
cExtends daylight-saving time by four weeks to reduce energy consumption by the equivalent of 100,000 barrels of oil for each day of the extension. Beginning in 2007, daylight-saving time will take effect on the second Sunday in March and fall back on the first Sunday in November. Currently, DST begins on the first Sunday in April and ends on the last Sunday in October.
Some senators got exactly what they wanted. The mandate that 7.5 billion gallons of the corn-based fuel ethanol be used by 2012 was a big win for Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, freshman Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Republican and others from big agricultural states.
Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, was able to secure $1 billion for the six oil and gas producing coastal states and a mandatory inventory of oil and gas off the nation’s coasts along the outer continental shelf.
Some senators would not support the bill because of those provisions, such as Florida Sens. Mel Martinez, a Republican, and Bill Nelson, a Democrat, who opposed the oil and gas inventory as an opening to drilling near the coastline of their state, which is dependent on beach tourism and can’t afford a spill.
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said he could not stomach the “pork” packages and the fact that the bill did not address global warming. Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, said he wanted stricter environmental protections.
But it was the cost of the energy policy that pulled some Republicans and Democrats together in a failed attempt to block the legislation.
Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, led a small group that included Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, to press for a defeat of the energy bill, calling it too expensive and a violation of the 1974 Budget Act.
“This bill will reduce revenues by $7.9 billion over five years and $12 billion over 10 years,” Mr. Feingold said. “The bill is fiscally irresponsible and we must ensure that the bills we pass in this Congress with our looming deficits are bought and paid for.”
Under the budget act no legislation can be passed that would exceed the spending limits set forth in an agreed-upon budget, unless a waiver is given. But the Senate voted 71-29 to waive the budget act.