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House Votes on Several Energy Price Bills

Posted on by Jesse Lee

Today the House voted on several key energy-related measures. The first was the Responsible Federal Oil and Gas Lease Act, the “Use It or Lose It” bill. The legislation will compel the oil industry to start drilling on the 68 million acres which they are currently warehousing or be barred from obtaining any more federal drilling leases until they demonstrate that they are diligently developing those lands. The bill garnered a vote of 223-195, but fell short of the 2/3 margin necessary for passage under suspension of the rules — the bill is expected to be brought up again under a rule where a simple majority will lead to passage.

The second was the Energy Markets Emergency Act which passed by a vote of 402-19. The bill would take crucial steps to curb excessive speculation in the energy futures markets by directing the CFTC to use all its authority, including its emergency powers, to immediately to curb the role of excessive speculation in any contract market trading energy futures or swaps.

And finally, the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act, passed by a vote of 318-99. It gives grants to mass transit authorities to reduce public transit fares, giving consumers a cost-effective alternative to $4 per gallon gasoline. The bill's $1.7 billion in mass transit grants for the next two years could also be used to expand transit services and for the escalating operating costs of public transportation and would be available to both rural and urban areas.

Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel and Select Committee Chairman Ed Markey spoke in favor of the “Use It or Lose It” legislation:

Rep. Emanuel: “I have three children, 11, 9, and 8. My middle one loves chocolate. Really loves chocolate. We have a rule in the house, you don’t get dessert until you finish everything on your plate. And to the oil and gas companies that want those leases in other areas, you don’t get those leases until you finish what’s on your plate… You give them $14 billion. You give them 68 million of public land. What’s the policy? $4.08 for a gallon of gas. I say it’s time for a new direction. Use it or lose it.”
Rep. Markey: “There’s no mistake why we’re here. You cannot have an oil and gas President and Vice President for eight years and not have an oil and gas strategy for America. The price we’re paying at the pump is the price we’re paying for allowing that policy to be implemented for these eight long years. So ladies and gentlemen, we have 2% of the world’s oil reserves. 2%. We consume 25% of the population. The Republicans are saying, we have 25% of the oil we consume on a daily basis. They’re saying, let’s drill off beaches. Although they’re not willing today to put a penalty on the oil industry for not drilling where the 80% of the oil is.”

Reps. Chris Van Hollen (MD-08) and Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) spoke in favor of the Energy Markets Emergency Act:

Rep. Van Hollen: “There’s been testimony before this Congress in front of the committee, subcommittee, Mr. Stupak, and the Senate side and House side by Professor Greenburger and many others that make it absolutely clear that a component of the increase in price does not have to do with solely with supply and demand. The CFTC has the authority under the statute to invoke its emergency powers if market prices do not adequately reflect the forces of supply and demand. I must say, Mr. Goodlatte, it has not done that… And there’s some permanent issues we have to come back and fix. We have to finally close the Enron loophole. We need to deal with the London loophole. We need to do some things on a permanent basis.”
Rep. DeLauro: “Independent economists point to one significant culprit, unregulated speculation in our futures markets. In May, 2008, International Monetary Fund report agrees. Professional investors have purchased contracts for more than a billion barrels of petroleum. Essentially aiding eight times as much demand for oil as the US has added to its strategic petroleum reserve over the last five years. The CFTC should be the cop on the beat. Protecting American consumers by putting a halt to out-of-control speculation. Unfortunately the CFTC may be partly to blame, allowing loopholes and opening up exemptions.”

Transportation Chairman Jim Oberstar and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL) spoke in favor of the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act:

Rep. Oberstar: “The purpose of this bill very simply stated is to promote energy savings for all Americans by increasing use of public transportation throughout this country… more americans have found their way to public transportation and increasingly in droves since the skyrocketing price of gasoline. transit systems throughout the united states have found every new transit project, every new light rail project has more than tripled its original projections of ridership nationwide… Americans are making the choice. They have decided. We need to help them with that choice.”
Rep. Holmes Norton: “And I appreciate you have brought forward the only available remedy for driving down $4 a gallon gas. Sometimes, Madam Speaker, the remedy is so obvious that we can’t see it. But who has made us see it are the American people because they have found that remedy and they are leading the way.”
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