Energy legislation a must for national security
A procedural vote in the Senate has stalled a sweeping energy bill approved by the House.
MORE than seven years after attacks on the United States brutally underscored the nation's energy vulnerability, Congress has sidled closer to measures that will reduce dependence and consumption of foreign oil.
But the package of bills to prod automakers to make more fuel-efficient vehicles, curtail greenhouse gases through renewable energy initiatives and repeal tax credits that feed hugely profitable oil and gas corporations appears stalled as Senate Republicans and the White House refuse to shift gears.
As matters now stand, sweeping legislation approved by the House likely will be stripped down. Instead of leaping forward, advances in energy policy will mince and totter, leaving Americans, the economy and the environment with further insecurity.
Though the narrowly divided Senate seems inclined to back down in the face of veto threats from President Bush and election-attentive Republicans who continue to heed the wishes of the oil and utility industries, the Democratic-led House should not allow removal of key provisions.
House leaders should persist in attempts to rescind the $13.5 billion in tax breaks granted by a Republican Congress to oil companies, including the five largest -- BP, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil -- that have been raking in record profits in recent years. Bush and Republicans claim that would amount to a tax increase, to which they are ideologically opposed, but that revenue would fund incentives for wind, solar and biomass power production.
Also, the House should not abandon new fuel-economy standards requiring car companies to produce fleets that average 35 miles per gallon by 2020. The efficiency increase would be the first to gain congressional approval in 32 years and is expected to save 1.1 million barrels of oil a day of the current 20 million barrels a day consumed in the United States.
Democrats might have to give up a requirement that investor-owned utility companies get 15 percent of their power from renewable energy sources, which some lawmakers contend would unfairly burden regions that don't have ample wind and solar resources.
If dropping the mandate would make the legislation more acceptable, the trade-off might be worthwhile because more than half of the states in the nation, including Hawaii, already have renewable energy standards, most with higher percentages.
What cannot happen is for Congress to give up on the measures. Sound energy policy is essential to national security and should not be passed off as a task for another time.