Winds of Change
"House Passes Energy Legislation: The U.S. House of Representatives wrapped up action on its "first 100 hours" agenda this week with passage of a bill on energy issues. The legislation passed by a vote of 264 to 123 and was sent to the Senate. The bill would impose a "conservation fee" on oil and gas from offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico; eliminate nearly $6 billion in tax breaks to the oil industry; and spend much of the proceeds for conservation incentives and the promotion of renewable energy sources (including solar, wind, and biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel). The bill would also bar companies who have flawed leases giving them cut-rate drilling rights in the Gulf from bidding on future lease sales unless they agree to renegotiate those leases. Naturally, the recently deposed pro-Big Oil leaders of the House and Senate, and the Bush White House, oppose tapping their buddies in the oil industry. That puts final passage of the legislation in question despite its strong margin of support in the House (including many Republicans). At the very least, however, it shows that the terms of debate in Congress have shifted dramatically in the environment's favor."
"Pelosi Creates Special Committee on Global Warming: Here's another piece of news from Congress this week, buried on the jump page of press stories about the energy bill but of potential real significance. CIB last week noted that the status of Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) as chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee spelled bad news for the prospects of action on bills addressing climate change. Well, we were far from the only ones aware of that—and this week new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a new arrangement which should address it. Pelosi said that she is creating a new special committee to hold hearings on climate change legislation, and that it would do so in time to make possible a House vote on this issue by mid-summer. That would bypass the possibility of a Dingell quash of the proposal. Good news."