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Speaker's Comprehensive Energy Flim Flam

On August 1, 2008, we growled about the revolt on Capitol Hill by Republicans in the House of Representatives after the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) “adjourned the House, turned off the lights and killed the microphones, but Republicans . . . still on the floor talking about gas prices.” Then on August 5, we growled again, citing a column by Larry Kudlow in which he noted, “There is a voter revolt going on, and it reminds me of the anti-tax rebellion that lifted Ronald Reagan into office twenty-eight years ago.”

House Speaker Pelosi held a press conference this afternoon, and according to the press release, said in part:

“We’re here today to talk about the good news that will happen on the floor later today. We will be passing a comprehensive energy bill that will honor our responsibility to make America energy independent . . . The choice on the floor today is the status quo, which is preferred by Big Oil, the Big Oil status quo, or the change for the future to take our country in a New Direction . . .“Republicans must set aside their drill-only mentality and embrace the provisions of this legislation, which is balanced, which is comprehensive, which respects the needs of the consumer. It is imperative that we are energy independent, so we can enhance the prospect for a great future of renewables and creating good paying jobs.

In a press release last week, the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) complemented the Democratic Leadership in the House, saying they “should be praised for paying heed to the basic position held by a substantial majority of Americans: that we should unlock our offshore areas to responsible development to help alleviate high prices over time,” but then goes on to point out:

“Preliminary details suggest that the House Democrats' proposal opens up all coastal states to drilling, but only beyond a restrictive 50-mile offshore buffer that would keep upwards of 90 percent of recoverable resources off-limits in some areas.

“Perhaps most important for exploration purposes, the proposal does not include any revenue sharing for states that choose to allow offshore development, Moylan noted. This would provide no major "opt-in" incentive for states, which are accustomed to onshore drilling and extraction agreements where revenue is split 50/50 with the federal government.”

An analysis by the Institute for Energy Research (HT to Mark Levin) notes, “To the casual observer, this certainly seems like a reasonable compromise.  Unfortunately, it’s not.  It’s a bait and switch.” (emphasis in the original) The ‘bottom line’ for the IER, however, is:

“It appears as though the new plan would take the America from banning access to 85 percent of the OCS acreage surrounding the lower 48 states to banning access to roughly 90 percent of its most-promising and easy-to-produce offshore energy reserves.  By opening only the farthest reaches of the OCS where no infrastructure exists, denying the states a share in the revenues, and locking up the reserves that are closest (and largest), this proposal ensures that (1) new production would be sparse, at best, and (2) new supplies would not come online for a long, long time.  Combine these facts with the plan’s new taxes and government handouts, and the American consumer gets little more than an expensive energy bridge to nowhere.” (Ehphasis in the original)

The legislation in question, HR 6899, passed the House of Representatives this evening. There were two votes (598 to recommit and 599 on passage). The vote to recommit failed with 191 ‘ayes’ (13 Democratic and 178 Republican) and 226 ‘noes’ (216 Democratic and 10 Republican) with 17 members not voting. The vote results for passage of the bill was essentially the opposite. There were 236 votes for passage (221 Democratic and 15 Republican), 189 votes against (13 Democratic and 176 Republican), and nine members not voting.

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