Foreign Policy Blogs

Update on Congressional Action

Tax Package , An excellent bit of legislation came to a screeching halt on the Senate floor early this afternoon.  The Senate Finance Committee's tax package for energy (see my item on this in the previous post), and passed by them 14-6 just two days ago, was held from a final vote on the Senate Floor when a sufficient number of Senators, 36 of them (and all but two Republicans), voted against ending debate.  Ouch.  The A.P. (via the "Boston Globe") reported in Big oil companies spared tax hikes what seem to me to be two important points:  

  • "Oil companies earned $111 billion in profits last year and at that rate stand to earn $1 trillion over the 10 years covered by the tax package, said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., rejecting suggestions that "this is an undue burden' on oil companies."

  • "Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., whose Finance Committee crafted the tax package, said the incentives for renewable and alternative fuels "will help wean ourselves away from OPEC … from these very high gas prices.'"

Nevertheless, 36 Senators have blocked this initiative. 

Okay, so here's a news item that caught my eye tonight:  Climate change could hit homes, beaches, business.  "Economists at three North Carolina universities and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany said the study showed that as climate change causes submersion of coastal areas and increased erosion, North Carolina will endure billions of dollars in property damage, lost tourism and disruption to coastal businesses." 

So, how did North Carolina's two Senators vote on the Finance Committee's tax package?  You guessed it:  Against.  That's what I mean by the disconnect between good public policy and business as usual. 

CAFE Vote ,  Having worked out a deal behind closed doors, Senators announced a deal on MPG standards.  Senate Votes to Raise Car Fuel Standards says the headline from the A.P. courtesy of ABC News.  Here's the whole story from Senator Dianne Feinstein's website.  This new standard, upping the MPG requirement by 10 by 2020, will:

  • Save between 2.0 and 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, nearly the amount of oil imported today from the Persian Gulf.
  • Achieve up to 18 percent reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from anticipated levels, or the equivalent of taking 60 million cars off the road in one year.
  • Save consumers $79-98 billion at the pump, based on a $3.00 gas price.

This is good public policy, folks.  Bill Nelson, whose impassioned speech on the CAFE issue I noted in yesterday's post, was one of the drivers, as it were, behind this hugely important legislation.

Stay tuned, though.  There's still the Renewable Portfolio Standard, there will be backfires set against the CAFE standards, hopefully there'll be more to say about the tax package, and there's all the legislation forthcoming from the House. 

In a hopeful sign there, the Ways and Means Committee today approved their "Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Act of 2007" and sent it to the floor for consideration.  The vote was 24-16.  Although not as aggressive as the Senate tax package, it leaves considerable room for hope that a much more aggressive approach will emerge from the final legislation when the conference committee puts out its final version.



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change