The Energy Bill

As news outlets are reporting, the US House of Representatives yesterday approved H.R. 6, The Energy Policy Act of 2005. It's huge, but perhaps not all bad. 

The Bill seems not to have been given much time for debate: it was officially introduced in the House just this week (April 18th), and passed April 21st. It was referred at once to many House committees, but they seem not to have had any real say on it after introduction. A dozen or so amendments were approved, some from Democratic representatives (Rush Holt, Dennis Kucinich); some, including this one from our congressman Tim Bishop were denied on mostly party-line votes.

There is also a CBO budget impact analysis available, which remarkably sees the bill as bringing in net revenue, despite increased spending on energy efficiency, alternatives, and nuclear energy. The revenue increase (coming entirely from projected spending on permits for drilling in the ANWR region) is more than compensated by a decline in tax revenue (not further explained) of about $4 billion from 2006 to 2010. The CBO also notes that the bill introduces "unfunded mandates" on states and local governments, one of which is related to the MTBE liability issue that's been raised in press reports.

The real problem with the bill is it just doesn't do very much compared with the seriousness of the problem. A few hundred million dollars here or there isn't going to make much difference on the time scale we need, unfortunately.

The bill has some interesting items. It promotes energy efficiency through a variety of measures, including an expansion of daylight savings time in the US by a month on either end. It promotes hydro power, and it promotes alternative-fuel and hybrid vehicles.

Most important, from our stance, is probably Title IX, Research and Development - this covers all the science programs, including fusion, though not including hydrogen which gets its very own section (Title VIII). In particular, Subtitle D covers renewable energy, and promotes solar, biomass, wind, and geothermal technology development. This includes specifically a detailed "Photovoltaic Demonstration Program" that would award funding to the states to demonstrate advanced PV technology.

But there are many more titles in the bill, many devoted to coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power, and probably not of much real merit. Are the things in there for energy alternatives (and electric grid improvements etc.) really worth all the costs?

Of course the bill still has to get past the Senate; Democrats filibustered the last time this came up, so it may not make it through to reality anyway. Worth paying attention to though...

Commentary earlier this week from the New York Times editorial page indicated the range of good ideas that are out there, but somehow ignored inside the beltway.

Created: 2005-04-22 18:05:38 by Arthur Smith
Modified: 2005-04-22 18:07:47 by Arthur Smith