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Conference Report on H.R. 6, Energy Policy Act of 2005

Location: Washington, DC

CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 6, ENERGY POLICY ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - July 28, 2005)


Ms. BALDWIN. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the energy bill on the floor today. As our dependence on foreign oil increases, this plan fails to directly confront our nation's future energy challenges. It provides a false sense of security to the American people that this Congress is serious about addressing our future energy needs and the skyrocketing cost of oil.

Some of my colleagues have lauded this bill, saying that it is the most comprehensive energy bill to be brought to the House floor in 30 to 40 years. While the bill may be wide-ranging, it provides no solutions, no tools, and no blueprint for reducing our demand for foreign oil or for giving families and small business owners relief at the gas pump.

Over 58 percent of the oil used to transport our nation's food from farms to consumers, heat our homes, and get us to work or school, is imported from overseas. Even the Department of Energy acknowledged that this bill will do next-to-nothing to lower gasoline prices or reduce America's demand for foreign oil. In fact, the Energy Information Administration, EIA, predicts our dependence on foreign oil will increase to more than 68 percent by 2005 regardless of whether this energy bill is signed into law or not.

If this bill does become law, Congress will have missed a monumental opportunity to make real progress in reducing our demand for foreign oil Even small efforts in this direction were rejected. For example, during conference negotiations, Republican conferees voted against a modest Senate proposal that would have required the President to reduce U.S. oil consumption by 1 million barrels a day by 2015.

This energy bill also fails to raise the efficiency standards for automobiles, which have not been increased in decades. Instead of challenging our nation's talented engineers to build safe cars, trucks and SUVs that can travel further on less gasoline, Republican conferees wilted to lobbyists who do not seem to believe in the American worker's ``can do'' ingenuity anymore.

Instead of diversifying the portfolio of the energy resources we depend on to power our nation, a Senate provision that would have required electric utilities to generate 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources was dropped during conference. A handful of States, including my home State of Wisconsin, have adopted similar targets and have had tremendous success. The use of renewables in these States has significantly increased while their benefits and popularity among consumers have proved the initial ``doomsday'' predictions by electric utilities wrong.

Rather than make Herculean efforts to bring renewable technologies to the market and expand their use, the bill provides oil and gas companies billions of dollars to subsidize their exploration and production efforts. To me, these taxpayer subsidies do not make much sense when the oil industry already expects to have 40 percent higher profits this year, with Exxon Mobil, BP, and Royal Dutch/Shell expecting to post a combined profit of more than $60 billion.

Despite the many misplaced priorities in this bill, I was pleased a number of provisions were included in this conference report that will benefit our Nation as well as Wisconsin. For example, conferees made the wise decision to expand our use of renewable fuels, such as ethanol, by 7.5 million gallons over 10 years. This is good for the environment, good for our Nation's energy future, and good for America's farmers. We could have done much more, but this is an important step in the right direction.

I believe now is the time to make substantial investments in improving technologies that generate more electricity from fewer resources and developing alternatives that won't pollute our environment. We must start today to ensure our Nation's energy security in the future.

I also strongly support the electricity reliability language in the bill that will help shore up the procedures and rules that govern the flow of electricity across State borders. While the reliability standards are long overdue, I believe they will help keep the lights on and ensure that a blackout similar to the one in 2003 does not happen again.

I also support the provision that will permanently ban oil and gas drilling in the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes are among our Nation's most valuable natural treasures and I believe they should not be threatened by potential oil spills or have their beauty or recreational appeal tainted by massive oil rigs.

Furthermore, I applaud conferees for not including a provision that would open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and natural gas production and exploration. Destroying one of America's most pristine wilderness areas for a few months of oil is not the long-term answer to reducing our-dependence on foreign nations for oil. Energy bill conferees also deserve credit for not including a safe harbor provision that would have shielded the manufacturers of the gasoline additive, MTBE, from lawsuits. This measure would have made taxpayers shoulder the burden of cleaning up hundreds of contaminated water supply systems across the country at a cost of more than $30 million.

Despite these positive provisions, Congress has had almost five years to get its priorities right, to put the American people before special interests, and to put forward a plan that curbs our demand for foreign oil. It is now clear that Congress has failed, and that this bill represents a lost opportunity. This House should not pass a bill that provides a false sense of security to the American people while failing to truly address the energy challenges our Nation will face in the future. I urge my colleagues to vote against this energy bill.


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