Big push to block GOP energy bill

WASHINGTON – Calls resounded on Capitol Hill for senators to block enactment of the 1,000-page Energy Policy Act, a Christmas tree laden with sugarplums for the oil and gas monopolies. The House approved the energy bill 246-180, with 46 Democrats joining 200 Republicans in support, on Nov. 18.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona branded the bill a “leave no lobbyist behind” pork barrel for oil and gas companies and Bush-Cheney campaign contributors. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) said the bill would “do about as much to improve the nation’s energy security as the administration’s invasion of Iraq has done to stem the tide of global terrorism.”

Written exclusively by Republican lawmakers, with Vice President Dick Cheney looking on, it would cost taxpayers $115 billion over the next decade, according to an analysis by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

While it does not lift the ban on drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), it provides $2 billion to build a new gas pipeline from Alaska to Chicago, suggesting that the drive to open the ANWR will continue. It includes $25.7 billion over the next decade in new “tax incentives,” better known as loopholes, for energy producers. Waxman said, “These costs include industry subsidies, tax breaks, authorizations for new government spending, and mandates that increase consumer prices for gasoline and electricity.”

Moveon.org, the Internet grassroots organization, urged its 2 million members to bombard senators with demands that they filibuster to block the huge giveaway to Bush-Cheney oil and gas cronies. “The bill was developed in secret – first drafted by a Cheney task force whose very participant list was kept secret, even from Congress, and now finalized by senators and House members who literally locked Democrats out of the final negotiations,” charged Moveon.org organizer Peter Schurman. “This is outrageous and unacceptable. The last time President Bush forced something unknown down our throats, we got the USA Patriot Act. … In the context of recent blackouts and the war in Iraq, all of our senators will be under huge pressure to approve an energy bill, even if it doesn’t address the key problems, as this one doesn’t.”

Zach Corrigan of the Public Interest Research Group charged that the bill “eliminates clean air protections for millions of Americans. It allows communities with deteriorating air quality to delay cleanup. … As a result, Americans will suffer from thousands of additional asthma attacks, hospitalizations, emergency room visits and new cases of asthma.”

Even the staid New York Times urged the senators to filibuster “and launch this dreadful bill into the legislative netherworld where it belongs.”

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