Last night, the US House of Representatives finished its promised "first 100 hours" push on a legislative agenda that included a raise of the national minimum wage, a cut in student loan interest, and an expansion of stem cell research. Treehuggers might argue that the House saved the best for last: the final vote of the opening legislative orgy was on HR. 6, the "Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation Act" (in PDF). The Democratic majority (minus four) plus 36 Republican House members approved the bill with a 264-163 vote. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's web site claims that the new law will:
...[invest] in clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency by repealing billions in subsidies given to big oil companies that are raking in record profits. Specifically, the measure ensures oil companies that were awarded the 1998 and 1999 leases for drilling paid their fair share in royalties. It also closes loopholes and ends giveaways in the tax code for Big Oil. Finally, the bill creates a Strategic Renewable Energy Reserve to invest in clean, renewable energy resources, promoting new emerging technologies, developing greater efficiency and improving energy conservation."Big Oil," as well as members of congress that support expanded US drilling, aren't happy with this development, of course: both Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) and a representative of the American Petroleum Institute told Oregon Public Radio's Marketplace that the removal of royalty subsidies would curb production of American oil.
The creation of the $15 billion Strategic Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Reserve is certainly something to celebrate on its face; we'll keep a close eye, though, on how this money is allocated. If done right, though, this could provide a nice boost to the developing wind, solar, geothermal and biofuels industries. ::Marketplace and the Office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi