Energy Bill Debated in U.S. Senate

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The U.S. Senate began debate this week on H.R. 6, a bipartisan energy bill that promises to protect consumers from price gouging, strengthen the economy, increase energy efficiency and develop clean alternative fuels. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke Monday morning at the Center for American Progress about America's "oil addiction" that has resulted in tax breaks and record profits for the oil-industry while low-income consumers still face higher energy prices.

Senator Reid claims that too few resources are being devoted to the development of clean, efficient, and renewable alternative fuels. The multi-part bill would set new green standards for federal buildings, raise Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for new cars and trucks to 35 mpg by 2020, reduce crude oil consumption by 10 percent over 15 years by producing renewable fuels, and set new energy efficiency standards. It would also punish companies that "price gouge," provide research funds for carbon sequestration programs, and seek to improve relations with worldwide energy partners.

Debate has been moving swiftly but not without protests from the auto, coal and oil industries who stand to be the hardest hit by reductions in subsidies and the higher CAFE standards. Questions are being raised as to whether or not the bill can garner enough support and still create policies that will prevent consumers from seeing energy prices rise.

As the week ended, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) released a proposed $13.7 billion package of tax incentives to go along with the energy bill aimed at improving energy efficiency and expanding production. More than $9 billion of the package's cost would be offset by eliminating the manufacturing tax deduction for major oil producers. Baucus expects that the committee markup next week will add another $10-12 billion in additional amendments. Reid hopes to finish the bill by next week.

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