Post image for Why Democrats Blame “Speculators” and “Subsidies” for High Gas Prices

With gas prices hovering near $4/gallon, Democrats are trotting out fanciful “solutions” to temper the price of oil.

On Saturday, President rolled out a three-part plan to relieve Americans’ pain at the pump. The third part was the elimination of Big Oil “subsidies” (in fact, they are tax breaks, not subsidies). This doesn’t make any sense. The point of the tax breaks to Big Oil is to decrease the cost of production. That is, they make oil cheaper to extract. Removing these “subsidies” will in no way decrease the price of gas.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are blaming evil “speculators” for bidding up the price of oil. This is utter malarkey. The price of oil is dictated by a global market.  Ill-defined “speculators” are a straw man.

Removing Big Oil’s “subsidies” and prosecuting “speculators” are empty political gimmicks of the sort that the 2008 version of Obama campaigned against. (So much for “Change,” right?) I suspect that the President and Senate Democrats are relying on these bogus non-solutions because, otherwise, they’d have to acknowledge that the price of oil is a function of supply and demand. And if they concede that the market, and not “subsidies” or “speculators,” is to blame for high oil prices, then they’d also have to acknowledge that increasing supply would decrease the price. That is, they’d have to admit that “drill, baby, drill” works. Of course, they don’t want to do that, because doing so would upset their environmentalist base.

[click to continue…]

Post image for In Massachusetts, Greens’ Slimy Tactics Get Zapped

Environmentalist lobbying outfits run some of the sleaziest political attack ads in the business. Their stuff would make Lee Atwater grin. My colleague Marlo Lewis wrote an excellent, extensive analysis of one such sleazy ad, from the folks at Move On. Another colleague, Chris Horner, caught Greenpeace apparatchiks rummaging through his garbage, no doubt looking for attack fodder.

Interestingly, industry refuses to defend itself from these black arts PR tactics. “Big Oil,” for example, runs silly ads denigrating its core business, like BP’s “Beyond Petroleum” campaign and Chevron’s “I will use less energy” commercials. Then there’s “Big Gas,” which promotes itself by talking about “Dirty Coal.” (Sigh.)

But that’s a separate issue. This post is about how the greens’ sleaze tactics are backfiring in Massachusetts. In that State, the League of Women Voters is running ugly advertisements that essentially equate baby-abuse with Senator Scott Brown’s vote for excellent legislation that would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, there’s nothing new about this zero class, wrongheaded attack analogy. Move On made the same insinuation in a similar, recent advertisement.

[click to continue…]

Post image for This Week in the Congress

House Passes Offshore Drilling Bills

The House of Representatives this week and last passed three bills to force the Obama Administration to increase offshore oil and gas production.  H. R. 1229 passed by a vote of 263 to 163, with 28 Democrats voting Yes. H. R. 1230 passed last week by 266 to 149, with 33 Democrats in favor.  And H. R. 1231 passed the House 243 to 179, with the support of 21 Democrats.

All three bills were sponsored by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.  You can read brief committee summaries of what is in the bills here, here, and here.

Naturally, the White House opposes all three bills.  President Obama and his top energy and environmental officials support policies to raise gasoline and electricity prices for consumers.

[click to continue…]

Post image for New Hampshire Senate Republicans Flinch

New Hampshire Senate Republicans have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on energy rationing policy. Two months ago, the State House of Representatives passed HB 519, legislation that would withdraw New Hampshire from a regional energy-rationing scheme known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), by a 246 to 104 vote. At the time, it was widely thought that the Senate would quickly follow suit, as Republicans control the upper chamber. Governor John Lynch (D) promised to veto the bill, but Republicans hold a veto-proof majority in both chambers of the legislature.

Then the environmentalist lobby mobilized and frightened many members of the Senate. The bill was delayed. Last week, the Senate Natural Resources Committee voted against HB 519 companion legislation. This week, the full Senate, where Republicans enjoy a 2 to 1 majority, voted to remain in the RGGI.

Post image for Cutting “Subsidies” to Big Oil Is Political Sleight of Hand

Between the time this is written and the time you read it, gas prices will have undoubtedly risen again.  They have been on an upward spiral for months and not likely to drop long term without some bold, decisive action as was taken on July 14, 2008. Instead of encouraging the development of our own natural resources, politicians of both parties  are once again betting that we will not notice if they play the antibusiness card—but 2011 is not a year for politics as usual and the rules have changed. This is no longer a back-room game. It is the poker channel. People are watching.

With their cards close to the vest, Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are bluffing. They want America’s citizens to believe their hand is filled with spending cuts—cut subsidies from big oil companies. Somehow we are supposed to think this will lower gas prices?

Part of their bluff is to use the term “subsidy”—which in the house-of-cards economy/debt crisis they’ve built translates to spending. Concerned Americans do not want more spending, they want cuts. We’ve anted up all we can. Politicians are betting we’ll fall for the deception.

[click to continue…]

Post image for This Week in the Congress

House Committee Acts To Stop President’s de facto Drilling Moratorium

The House Natural Resources Committee marked up three bills on Wednesday that would require the Obama Administration to stop its obstructive tactics and start producing more oil and natural gas from federal Outer Continental Shelf areas.  Committee Democrats dragged out the mark-up for nine hours by offering and insisting on recorded votes on a series of amendments to weaken or gut the three bills—H. R. 1229, 1230, and 1231.  None of their amendments was adopted.

It is expected that the House will pass all three bills in May.  Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) plans to introduce additional bills in the next few months to increase domestic oil and gas production on federal lands in Alaska and the Rocky Mountains as part of House Republicans’ American Energy Initiative.

House Leadership Tacitly Endorses Excellent EPA Strategy

Environment and Energy News reported this week that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) did not rule out attaching something like the Energy Tax Prevention Act (H. R. 910) to the bill to raise the federal debt ceiling.  H. R. 910 would block the Environmental Protection Agency from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.  It passed the House last week on a 255 to 172 vote, but failed as an amendment in the Senate on a 50 to 50 vote.

[click to continue…]

Post image for House Passes Energy Tax Prevention Act, 255-172

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.

Post image for Congressional Update: Votes Likely for Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 [Updated 5:45 PM]

The House of Representatives is scheduled to debate and vote on final passage of H. R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act.  The Rules Committee is allowing the Democrats to offer twelve amendments to weaken or gut the bill.  (It is worth recalling that on 26th June 2009, the Democrats allowed only one Republican amendment and couldn’t even provide an accurate copy of the bill, since 300 pages had been added in the middle of the night, but the new sections hadn’t been put in their proper places in the 1200 page bill that had been released four days before.)  No Republican amendments to strengthen to the bill will be allowed.  The rule can be found here.  It is quite possible that the vote on final passage will be delayed until tomorrow.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has scheduled votes on amendments offered by Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Max Baucus (D-MT), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) amendments to S. 493, a re-authorization bill for small business subsidies, for some time after 4 PM today.  The McConnell amendment is the Senate version of the Energy Tax Prevention Act, S. 482.  The other amendments are attempts to give some ground without blocking EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions permanently (that is, until Congress authorizes such regulations).  This shows how far the debate has shifted.  It appears that the three straddling amendments may each get fifteen to thirty votes.  It appears that the McConnell amendment (#183) will get 51 or perhaps even 52 votes, but will not be adopted because it is not a germane amendment and therefore requires 60 votes to survive a point of order.  All 47 Republicans are expected to vote for it plus Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Mark Pryor (D-AR).  Maybe one more Democrat, such as Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could of course still change his mind.

[click to continue…]

Post image for This Week in the Congress

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.

[click to continue…]

This Week in the Congress

by Myron Ebell on March 26, 2011

in Blog

Post image for This Week in the Congress

Senate Looks Ready to Vote on EPA Pre-Emption Amendment

The Senate now appears headed for a floor vote next week on S. 482, which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced on 15th March as an amendment to the Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer Programs Re-Authorization Act, S. 493.  S. 482, the Energy Tax Prevention Act, was introduced by Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) and is identical to H. R. 910, which the House plans to vote on as a free-standing bill next month.  McConnell’s amendment would block EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions until authorized by Congress.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) postponed a vote on the amendment last week when it became clear that it might come close to the 60 votes required for passage.  First, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced his bill to delay EPA regulations for two years as an amendment.  When that seemed to gain little support, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) introduced an amendment that would codify EPA regulations into law but permanently exempt from regulation smaller stationary sources that emit less than 75,000 tons per year.

[click to continue…]