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New Direction For Energy Independence, National Security, And Consumer Protection Act

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

NEW DIRECTION FOR ENERGY INDEPENDENCE, NATIONAL SECURITY, AND CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT -- (House of Representatives - August 04, 2007)

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Mr. HALL of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I have more problems with the amendment than I do with the author, and maybe the author and I can talk here and then get together and work some things out.

Actually, my problems with it is that we are told that it amends the biofuels subtitle and creates a university based research and development competitive grant program in a geographically diverse manner. That's a pretty long sentence there for me to try to figure out exactly what it means. But as I go down through it and see, in awarding the grants, it says that ``priority should be given to institutions of higher education with all of the following.'' I want to point out these ``following,'' and I know that the author is probably going to be able to explain them to me.

But I remember one time in the Texas Senate when we had a man stand up and he was trying to pass a bill as to where all the voting machines had to be constructed, and they all had to be constructed in a county in Texas, and he described the county as being in excess of 20,000 but not in excess of 20,003, and his county had 20,002 in it.

Now, I don't know if your labeling of these narrows it down to one institution or two institutions. I know there aren't any in Texas, because we don't have any Indians in Texas. But could you give me a little explanation on that?

Mr. WU. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

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Mr. HALL of Texas. I yield to the gentleman from Oregon.

Mr. WU. Mr. Chairman, there are at least several institutions that I know of in the Pacific Northwest that would qualify; and I suspect that if a fine research institution in Texas were to team up, say, with an Indian tribe in New Mexico or Oklahoma, I am sure that many institutions in Texas would also qualify under these criteria.

I would further like to point out that, unlike other grant programs which specify a handful of States which are to be given priority, this amendment does not do that. It is designed to be open to schools from all 50 States.

Mr. HALL of Texas. Do you mind if I just lay out what is in the bill? It says it has to be an established program of research and renewable energy. That's fine.

Locations that are low income or outside of an urbanized area, I guess that's okay.

A joint venture with an Indian tribe, that's where you start to lose me.

In proximity to trees dying of disease or insect infestation as a source of woody biomass, that one really does get to me. I just don't know how much biomass is adjacent to any of the universities, particularly any of the universities in my area, certainly not in my district.

And the amendment authorizes $25 million with no fiscal year designation. And a little bit further, it is unclear from the all-inclusive list of how many colleges and universities would be eligible to receive these grants under this section.

If you could just explain a few of those and tell me you would work with me before we get to the front gate, I would be glad to listen.

Mr. WU. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. HALL of Texas. I do yield, sir.

Mr. WU. Mr. Chairman, it is my recollection that Lyndon Johnson paid a great deal of attention to trees in Texas and their positive and detrimental nature at times. It has come to my attention, through my public and private activities in the Pacific Northwest, that we have a tremendous number of trees, some of which are dying of disease and insect infestation, and those trees become a threat to our healthy forests.

[Time: 15:30]

It was the intent of this author to try to have a win-win by generating energy from dead and dying trees which are otherwise a threat to the healthy forests which remain.

Mr. HALL of Texas. The amendment, while in the biofuels subtitle, does not direct colleges and universities to conduct research and development into biofuels specifically. Is that right?

Mr. WU. If the gentleman would yield.

Mr. HALL of Texas. If the gentleman will work with me from this point forward, we will withdraw our opposition to it, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. WU. I thank the gentleman.

Mr. HALL of Texas. I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. WU. I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. HALL of Texas. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

As I read this amendment, it creates both a Solar Energy Industries Research and Promotion Board and then also creates a Solar Energy Research and Promotion Operating Committee, which would be established and administered with fees assessed involuntarily against solar manufacturers and importers. I guess one of the things that I'm concerned about is this will eventually be passed on to consumers, to customers, that will wind up paying it. I would like to know more about how voluntary it is.

Actually, it creates two additional layers of bureaucracy for the Secretary of Energy to promote solar power. I don't see any reason why we don't just give DOE a grant to promote solar power, if that's the goal for it. There's no really added benefit to creating both a solar board and a solar committee. I don't understand why you'd have to have both of those or why you don't lessen it down just to one solar organization.

I note that the solar manufacturers and importers don't have a chance nor a choice as to the creation of the board or the payment of the fees assessed to promote the use of solar power. I see somewhere in the bill here where there's a huge fine there, a civil penalty, if certain things aren't done. I think it's something that really needs to be looked at and really needs some work on it between now and the time the Senate works on it or the time we get to conference.

As I read it again, it has the payment of a fee that also might be enforced by a civil action by the Secretary of Energy and the Attorney General, with a civil penalty of up to $25,000. That's a pretty serious fee. And I can see how that might be passed on to any area there of operation.

So here you have a fee, you have a board, you have a committee, an inspection of company books and records and the possibility of a civil penalty all being thrust upon solar manufacturers and importers, possibly against their wishes, all intending to help them.

But at this point I guess I just have to ask the obvious question of why this program, if it really will help the manufacturers and importers to find customers for their solar products and technology, why it would not be offered the opportunity to participate in some type of a voluntary check-off program or a time when they can opt out?

Would the gentlelady yield for a question?

Ms. GIFFORDS. Mr. Chairman, I will yield.

Mr. HALL of Texas. How long would it be before they could opt out if this is passed? What period is the opt-out period, and explain that to us, if you would.

Ms. GIFFORDS. Mr. Chairman, the companies would be able to opt out immediately.

Mr. HALL of Texas. I beg your pardon?

Ms. GIFFORDS. To my knowledge, those companies will be able to opt out if they do not want to participate in the program. Again, this is an amendment that was brought to me by the Solar Energy Industries Association. The solar companies in Arizona that I have worked with are all in favor of this amendment. Again, it's a voluntary program where the companies can choose to opt out if they so choose. But it has been successful, Mr. Chairman, in many other industries. And the

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agriculture industries that I mentioned are good examples.

I am certainly willing to work with my friend from Texas as this bill moves forward, but I do think that there are some real benefits to offering this amendment.

Mr. HALL of Texas. I would hope that you would. A lot of the companies that would be affected by this may be small businesses, they may not have the ability to opt out, and then have to bring a receipt to show, to maybe claim back some of their outlay. But they might be small businesses and startups, and I'm really concerned that it might have some unintended consequences.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

Ms. GIFFORDS. Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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