The House approved a sweeping energy package August 4 that calls for more energy efficiency in buildings and appliances and will require private utilities to provide at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar power by 2020.
The energy bill passed 241 to 172. The amendment establishing a national Renewable Energy Standard, introduced by Reps. Tom Udall (D–N.M.), Todd Platts (R–Pa.) and Mark Udall (D–Colo.), and strongly supported by environmental groups passed by a 220 to 190 vote.
Rep. Platts said, "This amendment is an important step similar to what is already taking place in many states to help ensure America reduces its dependency on foreign oil and meets its growing energy needs in an environmentally friendly manner." He added, "The question is whether we could continue to approach this issue as we have for the past 30 years, or if we are going to work toward a more diversified, reliable and clean energy supply."
Environmental groups had hoped that an amendment introduced by the chairman of the new Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Rep. Ed Markey, (D–Mass.) that would tighten corporate average fuel economy (CAFÉ standards) would be included, but Markey and Rep. Baron Hill (D–Ind.) withdrew their amendment after determining that it would not garner enough support on the floor. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "I strongly respect Chairman Ed Markey and Congressman Baron Hill for their decisions to withdraw the amendments on fuel efficiency standards in the interest of promoting passage of a consensus energy bill."
The House also passed a nearly $16 million tax package that would repeal tax breaks for the oil industry.
The American Petroleum Institute issued a statement shortly after the vote that said, "The House energy legislation is the wrong prescription for a secure energy future. It would discourage production of the energy Americans must have to maintain a thriving economy with strong job creation and improving living standards. It is premised on the false idea the nation must choose between alternatives and oil and natural gas. We need all forms of energy and will continue to need them for generations to come."
The bill now moves to a conference committee to iron out difference between the House package and the bill the Senate approved in June.
The bill still faces some staunch opposition that could prove problematic in conference discussions. In a statement released shortly after the vote Saturday night, House Republican Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) said, "The so–called energy bills before us tonight contain not a single watt of new energy and worse, actually seek to lock away the scarce resources we have available right now."
Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman also criticized the legislation, saying that the bills "will actually lead to less domestic oil and gas production and increased dependence on imported oil." As a result, Bodman said the president's senior advisors would recommend that he should veto the bill.