ASES Breaks from the Energy Bill Support Pack

Differing sharply from other major renewable energy industry organizations, the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) has spoken out against the comprehensive Energy Bill that is moving swiftly toward a final vote in the Senate.

Washington D.C. – November 20, 2003 [] “Oil, gas, coal and nuclear and the energy companies that produce them were the big winners when the U.S. energy bill finally made its way out of conference on Monday,” said the organization. “Written in secret by the two Republican chairmen in charge of energy packages, the bill is a gold mine for fossil fuel industries.” If there’s anything the bill can’t be accused of, it would be not offering at least something valuable to everyone. The bill includes a number of important provisions for the renewable energy industry, including a 15 percent federal credit on solar installations, a multi-year extension of the Production Tax Credit that has been so critical to the wind industry. This credit has also been extended to solar and geothermal and some biomass generation. In a move that has garnered significant support from Midwestern states, the also bill effectively doubles domestic production of ethanol. Although ASES acknowledged some positive aspects of the bill, they question the overall legislation that tilts in favor of the entrenched fossil fuel and Nuclear industries. “While oil drilling in the ANWR was not included, renewable energy and environmental advocates have little else to cheer about,” said the organization. “Provisions include a $20 billion natural gas pipeline from Alaska to the Midwest, opening of new natural gas drilling sites on Alaska’s North Slope, $2 billion in research money for companies and universities to study new ultra deep-water oil exploration and unconventional natural gas extraction techniques and $20 billion or more in tax breaks for fossil fuel industries.” These comments however, come on the same day the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), the National Hydropower Association (NHA), sent a letter to U.S. Senators urging their support for the bill. The organizations jointly stated they were writing to urge Senators to support passage of the bill because,”ýit contains several important provisions vital to the future of our industries. Its passage will help expand renewable energy production and spur job growth in the United States in the immediate future.” The groups asked for the Senators to both support the bill, and to vote in favor of any cloture motion filed on the conference report. Cloture motions, which require a 3/5 majority (60 Senators), effectively end debate on legislation that is on the Senate floor and defeat a filibuster if one should occur during this debate. There has been some talk of fillibusters already. Since the full text of the conference report was released Saturday, the bill has been moving swiftly. The conference report, passed in conference votes on Monday with few modifications. The U.S. House of representatives voted to approve the bill on Tuesday by a vote of 246 to 180. The bill is now moving into the Senate where it could stand to face increased opposition from Senators concerned with a number of issues including the contentious legislation offering lawsuit immunity for manufacturers of the gasoline additive MTBE. Leaking of the fuel additive into groundwater has prompted lawsuits from around the country. Senator John Sununu (R-NH) has gone of the record saying he might consider supporting a filibuster. His own state filed a lawsuit against MTBE manufacturers that would be annulled if the Energy Bill is signed into law. MTBE is being phased out in certain parts of the country in favor of ethanol as a substitute fuel additive. ASES also acknowledged the energy bill’s provisions for increased ethanol production but felt some key energy measures should have been included. “The bill does include a provision to double the use of corn-based ethanol but provisions for a national Renewable Energy Portfolio and more stringent CAFE standards were dropped,” said ASES. “Because of the nod to ethanol, mid-western democratic legislators are inclined to vote for the bill despite its many drawbacks.” The solar organization cited Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat from California who summed it up this way: “The committee report is a failure. It is a failure in every sense of the word. We will do nothing to address our dependence on oil.”
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