Sunday, April 24, 2005

Dems: Energy bill would raise gas prices


Dems: Energy bill would raise gas prices

WASHINGTON (AP) — The energy bill that passed the House on Thursday will raise gasoline prices and subsidize oil companies but fail to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil, Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said Saturday.

Markey, who tried unsuccessfully to force changes in the bill during House debate, said the legislation will make the United States more dependent on foreign oil because it fails to require cars and sport utility vehicles to be more fuel-efficient.

"We cannot afford to continue to pursue such a failed energy policy," Markey said in his party's weekly radio address. "If we fail to reduce our dependence on OPEC oil, we remain beholden to events in dangerous, unstable parts of the world. ... If we fail to reduce the cost of energy, businesses will suffer, farms will fail and families find it more difficult to make ends meet."

The bill, which passed the House by a 249-183 vote, reflects many of President Bush's energy priorities. It would open an Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling and provide $12 billion in tax breaks and subsidies to traditional energy industries, including oil, natural gas, nuclear and coal producers.

But opponents said it does little to foster less energy use and will damage the environment.

While this is the fifth time in four years the House has passed an energy bill, the measure has stalled in the Senate, and it's future there is still uncertain.

The bill, said Markey, gives billions of dollars in tax breaks to profitable oil companies such as ExxonMobil and immunizes those companies from any legal liability connected with water supplies contaminated by the gasoline additive MTBE.

Markey, a member of the House Energy Committee, said Democrats "offered a more hopeful vision of our energy future." That plan, he said, would move away from an oil-dependent past and into a "technologically advanced and renewable energy future."

"We lose when we resort to desperate drilling schemes that despoil our most precious wildlife and wilderness areas," Markey said. "We win when we invest in renewable technologies such as solar and wind energy."