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The House of Representatives this afternoon passed H. R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act, by a vote of 255 to 172.  Nineteen Democrats voted Yes.  No Republicans voted No.  This is a remarkable turnaround from the last Congress when on 26th June 2009 the House voted 219 to 212 to pass the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill.

The Energy Tax Prevention Act, sponsored by Rep. Fred. Upton (R-Mich.), the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and thereby put a potentially huge indirect tax on American consumers and businesses.   Coal, oil, and natural gas produce carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, when burned.  Those three fuels provide over 80% of the energy used in America.  Thus regulating carbon dioxide emissions essentially puts the EPA in charge of running the U. S. economy.

This is just the first step in stopping the Obama Administration’s attempt to raise energy prices .  The House bill now heads to the Senate, where yesterday an attempt to add the Energy Tax Prevention Act (introduced in the Senate as S. 482 by Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma) as an amendment to another bill was defeated on a 50-50 vote.  Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s amendment would have required 60 votes to be attached to S. 493.  Four Democrats joined 46 Republicans in voting for the amendment–Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.  Senator Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican to vote No.

The strong House vote in favor of the Energy Tax Prevention Act should build new momentum to pass it in the Senate later this year.  Of course, the White House has already issued a veto threat, which shows that President Obama is not interested in creating new jobs and restoring prosperity to America.  Congress has now rejected cap-and-tax resoundingly, but the President still hopes to achieve through backdoor regulation his goals of skyrocketing electric rates and gasoline prices at the $10 a gallon European level.

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House Ready To Pass Upton Bill Next Week

The House has scheduled H. R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act, for floor debate and passage on Wednesday, 6th April.  This could still slip given the wrangling that is going on between the House and the Senate over the Continuing  Resolution to fund the federal government for the rest of FY 2011 after the current CR runs out on 8th April.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton’s (R-Mich.) bill will pass easily with over 250 votes.  That most likely includes all 241 Republicans and 12 to 20 Democrats.

The Rules Committee has not yet met to decide which amendments will be in order.  Conservative Republicans in the Republican Study Committee are considering offering several amendments to strengthen the bill.

H. R. 910 as marked up by the Energy and Commerce Committee prohibits the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but does not prohibit the Administration from using other existing statutes to regulate emissions.  Nor does it ban common law nuisance lawsuits against emitters of greenhouse gases, such as power plants, manufacturers, railroads, airlines, and cement producers.

Thus one obvious amendment would be to ban common law nuisance suits.  The Supreme Court is currently considering such a case.  It may find that such suits may proceed, but even if it does not it could do so for the wrong reason—namely, that the EPA is regulating emissions and has thereby pre-empted common law.

Democrats led by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) will undoubtedly offer some of the same silly, irrelevant grandstanding amendments that they offered in committee.  Waxman was reported this week as expressing confidence that the bill has no chance in the Senate.

That was certainly true of his Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill in the last Congress.  One significant difference is that Waxman-Markey barely passed the House, 219-212.  The Upton-Whitfield bill will pass by a much wider margin.

Moreover, cap-and-trade was swimming against strong public opposition, while blocking EPA’s attempt to achieve cap-and-trade through the regulatory backdoor is swimming with public opinion.  That’s why, for example, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is still undecided about voting for the McConnell amendment (which is identical to the Senate version of H. R. 910) in the Senate.  She doesn’t want to vote for it, but she’d like to be re-elected in 2012.

Will the Senate Ever Vote on the McConnell Amendment?

The Senate spent another week without voting on Senator Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) amendment to block EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions or either of the two Democratic alternatives.  It is quite possible that there will be votes next week.  It is also quite possible that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will work out a deal with McConnell to dispose of many of the amendments to the underlying bill without votes and proceed to passage of the Small Business Innovation Research Re-Authorization Act.  Or Reid may keep stalling.

McConnell originally introduced his amendment (#183 if you’re keeping track) to S. 493 on 15th March.  It is identical to Senator James M. Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) Energy Tax Prevention Act, S. 482, which is identical to the House bill of the same name, H. R. 910.

Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced an amendment to try to provide cover for fellow Democrats and thereby siphon support from McConnell’s amendment.  Rockefeller would delay EPA regulations for two years.

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Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, last week released a new minority report, titled, “The Real Story Behind China’s Energy Policy-And What American Can Learn From It.” The report shows that, regardless of its wind and solar production, China is predominantly relying on coal, oil, and natural gas, along with hydro and nuclear power, to fuel its economy.