WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate is unlikely to pass an energy bill before it leaves for August recess this week, killing one of the Democrats’ top legislative priorities.
“It takes care of the BP oil spill so they can’t do things that they’ve done to the American people anymore,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., of the bill he introduced last week.
The Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act would remove the $75 million oil spill liability cap and provide funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The bill also would fund the federal Home Star energy efficiency program, which Reid says would create 177,000 jobs nationwide and lower energy costs for consumers. The bill also promotes natural gas and electric cars.
Reid is expected to hold a vote this week in order to end debate on the bill, but lawmakers have expressed doubt that the legislation will go through before Congress leaves for its August recess on Friday.
Before Congress adjourns, the Senate is scheduled to vote on the nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.
Democrats who support the bill say it is only the beginning of energy legislation.
“This is but the first chapter of energy changes that are essential to this country’s future,” Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said in a floor speech Monday.
Dorgan said the United States’ “prodigious appetite” for oil downed one-quarter of the 85 million barrels drawn out of the earth each day, and 60 percent comes from foreign sources.
“Some call it an addiction,” he said.
“We … want to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, so we’re going to convert our truck fleets to natural gas,” Reid said. “Also, there is a provision in here for building electric cars.” Reid’s energy bill calls for encouraging the transportation industry to use natural gas. The country’s transportation fleet accounts for 70 percent of the United States’ daily oil use.
Dorgan said this week’s bill represents “steps in the right direction, but is very short of what we could and should do before the end of this session.”
A group of Democratic senators, including Dorgan, asked Reid in a letter last week to include a provision in the bill requiring electric utilities to increase their use of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.
Ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Ala., complained that the “so-called energy bill” was really just several loosely related provisions “cobbled together.” She said the bill’s provisions were “all good ideas, but do we need to do them on an energy bill that is supposed to be focused on the oil spill in the Gulf?”
“To think that we could move an energy bill through the process so quickly is very very difficult,” Murkowski said.