Someone else's porch
The United States
Senate announced recently that the on again, off again effort to pass
a comprehensive energy bill is on again. The status changed because the
sponsors of the legislation completely revamped the 2003 version of the
bill that stalled in the final days of last year’s session.
The Senate energy
bill was not debated on the floor of the Senate last year because the
leadership did not have enough votes to overcome a threatened filibuster.
Opponents of the bill said it was too costly and contained too many giveaways
for the energy industry.
Because of the formidable
opposition, the Senate adjourned in December without taking action on
the energy bill. Shortly after that, supporters of the legislation announced
they would bring the same bill back early in 2004. The supporters would
use the congressional break period to get the two additional votes needed
When January arrived,
the Senate did not try to advance the bill. They needed to work on the
budget and transportation bills before they would take up the energy bill
Some predicted they
would not take up the energy bill at all because the budget was already
indicating a $521 billion deficit! That number did not include the billions
they would need for military support and rebuilding programs in Iraq and
Afghanistan. The $31 billion price tag on the energy bill was just too
much to add to the already large deficit.
The status of the
Senate energy bill was changed to on again only after the cost was pared
down to $15 billion. Also, the new version was stripped of the provision
that would grant liability waivers for producers of MTBE, the gasoline
additive accused of contaminating ground water. The MTBE provision was
inserted in the House bill last year. And, according to House leaders,
they will not consider a bill this year that removes the liability wavers!
With an apparent stalemate
looming, political pundits in Washington are having a field day speculating
about the final outcome of the energy bill. While many expect the House
to bend a little bit if the Senate sends them a revamped energy bill,
an equal number say this new Senate version does not have a chance in
One seasoned Capitol
Hill sage put it rather succinctly when he said, “It looks to me
like someone is getting ready to throw their dead cat on someone else’s
porch!” While most had not heard that down-home metaphor, everyone
knew what it meant!
We will watch the
energy legislation closely to make sure it retains benefits for electricity
users living in rural America. If we are able to accomplish that, we can
be sure a comprehensive energy bill will be good for electricity consumers
no matter where they live.
was executive vice president of the Association
of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and a member of Three Rivers Electric