The measure, which the House approved Thursday by a vote of 275-156, has been sought by President Bush since he first took office and is the first major overhaul of the nation’s energy policies in 13 years. It includes $14.5 billion in tax breaks over the next ten years, most of which will go to oil, natural gas and coal industries. But the legislation also includes incentives for increased development of alternative energy sources, such as wind farms, and conservation initiatives like hybrid cars.
Supporters of the bill said it would lead to production of more efficient energy sources, investment in the electrical grid and the creation of new jobs.
“By encouraging greater efficiency, increased energy production in an environmentally responsible way and encouraging investment in our nation’s outdated energy infrastructure, this bill takes a balanced approach and embodies the right priorities for the American people,” U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman said in wire reports.
Proponents also warned that the bill would not produce immediate results.
“We won’t have any answers if the question is what are you going to do tomorrow morning about gasoline prices,” said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M. But he noted the bill would provide incentives and policies “that we as a nation will benefit from not tomorrow, but for the next five or ten years.”
“This is not a perfect bill,” the New York Times quotes U.S. Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., as saying. “But it is a good beginning to develop an energy strategy for the 21st century. It is the best that can be constructed at this time.”
Opponents argued against the bill’s massive cost and its large tax breaks for high-powered industries.
“This bill is not an energy policy,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said in the Washington Post. “It is a list of tax breaks and special interest favors that does not translate into a cohesive approach, which global realities demand in this country.”
Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wis., who voted against the measure, tried to block the vote by arguing it exceeded congressional spending limits, but the Senate rejected that move.
“This bill digs us deeper into a budget black hole,” he said in wire reports.
Lawmakers averted a political fight by leaving out one of the administration’s top energy goals: opening the Artic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil drilling. House Republicans promised to pursue that issue separately in the fall.
President Bush — who spent the past four years pressing Congress to overhaul U.S. energy policy — is set to sign the bill into law next week.