Every newspaper in the country is reporting about the "Gang of 10" --
Republican and Democratic Senators working to gain support for a
grand compromise. If enacted, it allows some offshore oil drilling in
the Gulf of Mexico and perhaps off the Atlantic Coast, subsidizes
nuclear power and coal-to-liquid and funds ethanol research. It
renews the expiring solar and wind tax credits.
And it includes a $7,500 tax credit for new plug-in cars and $2,500
for conversions existing cars plus $7.5B for automakers to retool
plants for plug-in cars and $7.5 billion for battery R&D. Inclusion
of these provisions demonstrates the almost-unanimous Congressional
support for plug-in vehicles as a near-term solution, and should send
further signals to automakers that they'll get support in DC this
fall or next year.
The compromise aims to fuel 85% of US cars off gasoline by 2020 --
which sounds a lot like proposals from Andy Grove and others that
have been seen as unrealistic. (There are some subtleties in the
provisions: the 85% goal is a "sense of the Senate" resolution; the
$7,500 credit also applies to fuel-cell cars; and many
environmentalists are dubious about the tradeoffs. Read details below.)
POLITICS: The Senate just went into recess without any progress on
energy legislation but will return in September for a short
pre-election session. Democrats (all from states that voted Repubican
in 2004) include Mary L. Landrieu (Louisiana), Kent Conrad (North
Dakota), Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas) Mark Pryor (Arkansas),Ben Nelson
(Nebraska), and Republicans Saxby Chambliss (Georgia), Johnny Isakson
(Georgia), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), Bob Corker (Tennessee)
and John Thune (South Dakota). Senator Obama said he was open to
compromise, McCain said the country needed "all of the above," and
more drilling sooner, and the White House said it would consider the measure.
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: Senators craft bipartisan energy bill by
Zachary Coile, Chronicle Washington
Lawmakers could be waking up to the fact that the election-year blame
game between the two parties hasn't eased the pain Americans are
feeling from $4-a-gallon gas prices. That's why the "Gang of 10"
senators - a group of five Democrats and five Republicans - is
pushing what they describe as a middle course between the
Republicans' insistence on more drilling and Democrats' demands for
more renewables and efficiency measures.
The group's effort was modeled on the "Gang of 14," a group of seven
Democrats and seven Republicans who defused a bitter dispute in the
Senate in 2005 over the confirmation of President Bush's judicial
nominees. Chambliss reached out last month to North Dakota Democratic
Sen. Kent Conrad, whom he had worked with on the recent farm bill, to
form a similar group to plot a compromise on energy.
Their plan includes several of the Democrats' top energy priorities,
including stripping oil companies of at least $30 billion in tax
breaks. The bill would use some of that money to renew expiring tax
credits for wind and solar projects through 2012. It also would give
consumers a $7,500 tax credit to buy an electric or fuel-cell
vehicle, and a $2,500 credit to retrofit their current vehicles into
The bill would provide $7.5 billion in research money to boost
electric vehicles, mostly to improve the batteries that store
electricity. U.S. automakers would be big winners, receiving $7.5
billion in government money to retool their auto lines to crank out
more electric cars.
The ethanol industry would also benefit, with $2.5 billion in new
research money to create more efficient biofuels as well as loan
guarantees for building new ethanol pipelines and tax breaks for
biofuel, electric and hydrogen refueling stations. The bill would
speed up the processing of permits to build new nuclear power plants
and offer up to $10 billion in loans for new coal-to-liquid plants,
as long as they captured their carbon emissions.
"We believe that it's critically important that any plan be balanced,
that it include serious conservation measures as well as additional
production incentives," Conrad said.
The bill is already generating some heavyweight opposition. The oil
industry is warning that revoking its tax breaks could slow its
production of new energy supplies. Environmentalists support the tax
credits for wind, solar and electric vehicles, but strongly oppose
the new offshore drilling and coal-to-liquid fuels provisions.
"This is Exxon's drilling agenda wrapped in a veneer of other energy
policies," said Anna Aurilio, federal legislative director of the
U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
The bill's sponsors are hoping it will be the centerpiece of debate
when the Senate returns in September. Majority Leader Harry Reid,
D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have called for
an energy summit the first week Congress is back.
Reid said the "Gang of 10" bill includes some good ideas, although he
does not agree with all of it. But he added, "I am hopeful this plan
can begin to break the current legislative stalemate on the Senate floor."
WASHINGTON POST: Obama Says Energy Compromise Is Necessary By
Obama said on Saturday that it is time to compromise. The proposal by
the Senate's "Gang of 10" has "some of the very aggressive elements
that I've outlined in my plan," he said here, including a goal in 20
years of having 85 percent of cars no longer operating on
petroleum-based fuels and to provide $7 billion to help the U.S. auto
industry retool to build ultra-efficient vehicles.
"What I don't want is for the best to be the enemy of the good here,
and if we can come up with a genuine, bipartisan compromise in which
I have to accept some things I don't like, or the Democrats have to
accept some things that they don't like, in exchange for moving us in
the direction of energy independence, then that's something I'm open
to," Obama said. "I wanted to send a strong signal that we can't
allow partisan bickering or the desire to score political points to
get in the way of providing some genuine relief to people who are struggling."
Republicans seized on Obama's shift, accusing the presumptive
Democratic nominee of inconstant and politically motivated policy
stands. The Republican National Committee sent out a news release
noting that on Wednesday in Missouri, Obama declared, "I want to be
absolutely clear to everybody about this. If I thought that I could
provide you some immediate relief on gas prices by drilling off the
shores of California and New Jersey . . . if I thought that by
drilling offshore, we could solve our problem, I'd do it."
The drilling issue may offer Obama the strongest reason yet for
compromise. New polls suggest that opposition to offshore drilling is
easing under the weight of $4-a-gallon gasoline. Obama left open his
options Saturday, saying that the Senate compromise's "drilling
provisions are about as careful and responsible as you might expect
from a drilling agenda," but that he remains skeptical.
"We can't drill our way out of the problem," he said. But, he added,
"I also recognize that in the House and the Senate, there are
Republicans who have very clear ideas about what they want, and at
some point people are going to have to make some decisions. Do we
want to keep on arguing, or are we going to get some things done?"
The campaign of Sen. John McCain at once claimed credit for leading
Obama to his new position and questioned whether he ultimately would
support additional drilling. McCain also opposed expanded offshore
drilling until switching his position in June.
It is not clear how far Obama's endorsement will get the Senate
compromise. Environmentalists decried the deal as badly slanted
toward oil production. Daniel J. Weiss, an energy and environmental
expert with the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund,
said most of the drilling provisions are mandatory, while the key
energy conservation measures are voluntary. The push to have 85
percent of future cars powered on non-petroleum fuel is merely a
nonbinding sense of the Senate resolution. And the compromise does
not include a long-sought environmental provision that would mandate
that a certain percentage of electricity generation come from
renewable energy sources.
"This deal is like swapping your home for somebody's car," Weiss
said. "Sure, the car is nice, but is it worth your house?"
UPDATE:As Parties Fight,Group Offers Bipartisan Energy Package By
Ian Talley Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
WALL STREET JOURNAL: Obama Would Back Offshore Drilling As Part of
Bipartisan Energy Package By AMY CHOZICK
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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