Striking back at a host of critics, Sen. Pete Domenici, (R-NM) told his colleagues Thursday that killing the energy bill would “kill the fuel diversity efforts, the drive to produce alternative sources of fuel for America.”
There are incentives in the bill “to send windmills soaring in numbers,” Domenici said. But that drive “is dead if this bill dies, and so are biomass and hydrogen and all the other ones. America needs this bill so we can begin producing alternatives.”
“This bill is filled with tax credits that people wanted and needed. For every newspaper article opposing the bill, there are hundreds of letters from people supporting it.” Domenici slated a press conference for later Thursday with representatives of solar, wind and geothermal renewable energy to counter offensives being mounted against the bill by environmental groups.
If opponents are successful in killing the bill with a filibuster, incentives for ethanol will be “killed, dead, gone out the window forever. I don’t see any way of getting an ethanol bill if this bill isn’t passed.”
Farm state senator and minority leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota apparently agrees and has told a talk radio station in his home state that he also will vote for cloture to close off a filibuster, if it becomes necessary. Domenici Thursday made a statement thanking Daschle for his support on cloture.
Responding to critics who have cited the bill’s myriad tax incentives and spending proposals as a pork barrel give-away, Domenici agreed there are a lot of tax incentives, but said that is what it will take to establish alternative fuel sources for the nation. He also pointed out that the estimated $30 billion in incentives and spending are “authorizations,” which still must go through the much tougher appropriations process. Typically, a number of them will not make it through the appropriations process and will die unfunded.
Besides ethanol, the U.S. needs to use its vast resources of coal, Domenici said in a speech on the Senate floor, but to do that it needs the clean coal initiatives in the bill to burn the coal without pollution. Without the bill “America’s King Coal will remain dormant, a dead product.”
The Senate energy leader pointed to Wednesday’s report on the massive August blackout, which faulted companies for failing to comply with voluntary reliability rules. “If this bill passes, compliance with reliability rules will be mandatory with criminal penalties.” If it doesn’t, “blackouts in America will remain alive and possible.”
The repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 will allow a surge of investment in the power industry, and instructions on regulatory issues such as standard market design and transmission pricing will set a framework and some certainty for the industry to move forward. “Those who want FERC to run the entire grid will get that,” the bill simply provides for it to phase in. “And we made sure we didn’t close out competitors coming in to the market.” It’s more difficult, but not impossible.
While other countries are forging ahead using nuclear power, the U.S. stands back, awaiting an answer for disposal of nuclear waste. The bill includes an incentive for the development of technology to deal with the waste problem, Domenici said.
The bill also contains “protections for consumers from Enron-type fraud and market manipulation,” and extends protections for whistleblowers. “This is what you lose, if you lose this bill.”
Domenici pointed to the assistance provided in the bill for the building of a pipeline to carry natural gas from Alaska. “The state is loaded with natural gas. Without this bill we’ll be importing LNG from all over the world; instead of becoming independent, we’ll become more dependent.”
The New Mexico senator said he would have liked to see a program to capture crude oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve, but there was a lot of opposition, “so we didn’t put it in.”
Defending the liability waiver for manufacturers of the gasoline additive MTBE, Domenici pointed out that production and use of MTBE is not illegal. It has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency to make a cleaner burning fuel. “It hasn’t been banned. Why? Because there’s nothing wrong with the product. If it’s used right it’s a good product.”
The problem has been with the misuse of the product, with leaks occurring during transmission and distribution. The bill does not waive liability for misuse of MTBE that has allowed it to leak into groundwater systems, but, Domenici said, those with problems figure they will get more by suing the large oil companies which make it, rather than the gas station owner who misused it.
Domenici noted that he has been “chastised and ridiculed” for his methods of bringing the bill to this point, but “we tried before for a year and a half and got nothing. This year we have a bill.”
Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) said the bill was “the most comprehensive piece of energy legislation” in his 23 years in the Senate. “I agree with a lot; I disagree with some; but, I support it as a whole. We can’t have a growing economy if we don’t have energy.”
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