A person could give Congressman Dean Heller’s (R-NV2) observations on energy policy much more credence were it not for the fact that he and the House Republican leadership are talking one game and playing another.
The office of the Speaker points out that, “Republicans may talk a good game, but their actions speak louder than words. Republicans have voted against the critical solutions that must be part of a comprehensive New Direction for Energy Independence. They voted against renewable energy and conservation, responsible domestic oil production, short-term measures to bring down prices now and punish those who are manipulating the oil market, and new requirements that oil companies pay their fair share.” [Gavel]
Any energy policy with any chance of ameliorating the present situation and setting the stage for long term solutions must include not only oil production, but manipulation mitigation, renewable energy alternatives, and public transportation elements.
First, the Republicans are taking it on faith that the more lands and oil fields made available to the Oil Giants, the more crude oil will be produced. This may not necessarily be the case. Oil corporation profits depend on strong demand underpinning the prices. We’ve seen already what happens in the oil futures market when demand drops. [ABS-CBN]
We’re also aware that the oil from fields the Republicans would like to open for development would not necessarily be placed exclusively on the American market.
Congress has considered the following legislation intended to increase petroleum supplies and mitigate the effects of the rising gasoline and energy prices on the American economy. The fate of these bills demonstrates very clearly what Speaker Pelosi is talking about – the Republicans are talking one way and voting another.
H.R. 6578: This bill would have offered light grade petroleum for sale from the SPR and called for its replacement with heavy grade petroleum. The Consumer Energy Supply Act failed to secure the 2/3rds vote required, on a 268-157 tally. Nevada Representatives Berkley (D-NV1) and Porter (R-NV3) voted in favor of this measure, Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV3) voted against it. [vote 527] Of all the bills currently under consideration, this one offered the best chance of lowering gasoline prices at the pump in the immediate future.
H.R. 6515: The “Drill Responsibly in Leased Lands Act of 2008” would have amended the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act to allow the Secretary of the Interior to expeditiously launch competitive leasing of oil and natural gas production in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. The vote on this bill was 244 to 173, insufficient for the 2/3rds required. Once again, Nevada Representatives Berkley and Porter voted in favor of the bill, Rep. Heller voted “no.” [vote 511] While not as immediate as the SPR bill in its effect, the expediting of the leasing process could have brought the supplies on line faster.
H.R. 6251: Also known as the “Use It or Lose It” bill, this legislation would have prohibited the Secretary of the Interior from issuing new oil and natural gas leases to holders of existing leases who do not diligently develop the lands subject to existing leases. With 68 million acres already leased, the Oil Giants opposed having to develop their existing resources before grabbing up new ones. Developing oil fields already leased would get petrol to the pumps more quickly than having to go through the leasing process before development could begin. This measure also failed to get the 2/3rds required in the House vote, going down 223-195. Rep. Shelley Berkley voted in favor of his bill, Rep. Porter and Rep. Heller voted against it. [vote 469]
H.R. 6346: The Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act addressed the possibility of price gouging practices for gasoline and other fuels. While not strictly an “energy policy” bill, the legislation would have prevented unfair business practices in the event of a critical shortage. It failed to get the 2/3rds required on June 24, 2008, 276-146. Representatives Berkley and Heller voted in favor of the bill; Representative Porter voted against it. [vote 448]
H.R. 6049: The Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008 passed the House of Representatives on May 21, 2008, on a 263 to 160 vote. Representatives Berkley and Porter voted in favor of the bill, Rep. Dean Heller voted against it. [vote 344] The bill has been stalled by a Republican filibuster in the Senate. Senate Republicans sustained their filibuster voting down a cloture motion on June 10, 2008 with Senator John Ensign (R-NV) voting no on the cloture motion, [vote 147], and again on June 17, 2008, with Senator Ensign voting to sustain the filibuster once more. [vote 150] The third time wasn’t a charm, the GOP maintained its filibuster on July 29, 2008 and yet again Senator John Ensign voted to sustain the filibuster.[vote 190] The Senate Republicans appear unwilling to incorporate substantial elements of alternative energy development into their version of an energy policy. Nothing may better illustrate the “Oil or Nothing” attitude of the Grand Oil Party more than this continual filibuster against alternative energy promotion.
H.R. 6074: This is the so-called NOPEC bill which would have applied the Sherman Act to make oil producing and exporting cartels illegal. The intent of the legislation is obviously to address price manipulation issues. It passed the House on May 20, 2008 on a 324 to 84 vote. All three members of the Nevada congressional delegation supported the bill. [vote 332] No action has been taken by the Senate.
H.R. 6052: Rep. Oberstar’s bill addresses the need to decrease overall demand by promoting increased use of public transportation and the use of alternative fuels to do so. This bill passed the House on June 26, 2008 on a 322 to 98 vote. Representatives Berkley and Porter voted in favor of the bill, Rep. Heller voted against it. [vote 467]
H.R. 6: One of the first bills to pass in the 110th Congress was the “Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.” The House approved it on January 18th, 264-163. Rep. Berkley voted “yes,” both Rep. Porter and Rep. Heller voted “no.” [vote 40]
It passed the Senate on June 21, 2007 on a 65-27 vote [vote 226] Both Nevada Senators voted in favor of the bill. It was signed by the President on December 19, 2007.
Of all three members of the Nevada delegation, only Rep. Berkley has consistently voted in favor of comprehensive measures to address our energy issues. Representative Porter’s support, as listed above, has been spasmodic and somewhat inconsistent. However, it’s truly remarkable that the Nevada Congressman most vociferously calling for more drilling, Rep. Dean Heller, is precisely the one who has demonstrated the least inclination to vote in favor of bills to (1) increase the supply of petroleum to our domestic market, (2) control speculation and manipulation, (3) require production from leases already in hand, and (4) promote alternative energy sources and public transportation.
Update – For a look at the Senate side of the ledger see:
“12 Times and Counting: Bush Republicans Turn Their Backs on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency” Democratic Policy Committee outlines 12 occasions on which members of the Senate have had an opportunity to vote on energy policy bills and have blocked them from June 21, 2007 to July 30, 2008.