Senate Committee passes energy bill

Reader Contribution by Ramsey Cox

On Wednesday a Senate committee approved an energy bill that many environmentalists criticized. The bill would open large areas close to the shores of the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling and guaranteed a federal loan for an Alaska gas pipeline project.

The SenateEnergy and Natural Resources Committee voted 15-to-8 on the bill. Democrats on the committee pushed to require utilities to have 15 percent of electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2021, but the bill had exemptions that would reduce that goal.

This standard is considerably weaker than the House energy and climate bill sponsored by Democratic Representatives Henry Waxman of California and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, which is expected to be voted on in the House before the Congressional Fourth of July break.

The House bill is more progressive with more caps on greenhouse gas emissions and higher standards for renewable energy sources. The Senate bill is clearly a compromise between Democratic and Republican committee members. Republicans committee members fought for increased petroleum reserves, expanding drilling to within 45 miles of coastlines and increasing the number of nuclear energy facilities.

The Washington Post reported that a dozen environmental groups wrote a joint letter to the committee of opposition to the bill. The groups criticized the renewable energy standards of being too low and expressed concerns for wildlife off the west coast of Florida because the bill would allow more offshore oil and gas drilling.

The results of the House bill, which will likely be voted on first, could dramatically change the Senate bill that does not go as far with renewable energy or limiting greenhouse gases.