WASHINGTON, DC - Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, commented today on the passage of the Senate’s substitute amendment to H.R.6. The Senate passed the bill last night by a vote of 86-8.
“I simply could not support an ‘energy bill’ that will further drive up the already high price of gas at the pump or the cost of energy in our homes,” Senator Inhofe said. “Absent from this ‘energy’ bill are domestic energy resources – such as oil, natural gas, nuclear and clean coal technologies – that are essential to securing an American energy supply that is stable, diverse, and affordable.
“Further, I am disappointed that this bill significantly increases the renewable fuels mandate in an irresponsible manner. Through my leadership position on the EPW Committee in 2005, I successfully worked with my colleagues to create a comprehensive program to increase the use of renewable fuels in a measured way that makes economic sense. This bill, however, contains a nearly five-fold expansion in the bio-fuels mandate. The fact is there are a growing number of questions surrounding ethanol’s effect on feed prices and our agricultural community, its economic sustainability, its transportation and infrastructure needs, and its water usage. As a result, I believe it’s just too early to significantly increase the mandate. The fuels industry needs more time to adapt and catch-up with the many developing challenges facing corn-based ethanol.
“Unfortunately, this bill raises $1.4 billion by extending the ‘temporary’Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) surtax on businesses which was first established in 1976 to repay loans from the federal unemployment trust fund. Even though this money was fully repaid in 1987, Congress has extended this temporary tax five times, imposing an annual $1.4 billion tax burden on America's workers and employers.
“Further, this bill also includes some unrelated highway provisions that will result in reduced flexibility and provide a disincentive for states to make essential improvements to our nation’s bridges and interstates. These two provisions would undo the work done in the last three highway bills to increase the flexibility of States to spend their dollars where needed. Instead, this language will tell States how much and where highways dollars need to be spent.
“This bill could have been even worse. Fortunately, however, I was able to work with my Senate colleagues to ensure major sections of the bill were stripped out. Democrat attempts to include a tax increase of $21 billion dollars, mostly aimed at the oil and natural gas industry, were defeated, as well as the attempt to include a Renewable Portfolio Standard that would have significantly increased the cost of electricity in Oklahoma and across the country.
“One of the few bright spots is the inclusion of my bipartisan provision to incorporate the ‘Federal Buildings Energy Conservation Act’ into the bill. This provision encourages the use of geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) in Federal buildings. Geothermal heat pumps are a proven, effective, and efficient technology that can help meet heating and cooling needs at Federal facilities while conserving energy and saving taxpayer dollars."