WASHINGTON – Federal lawmakers from the Cincinnati area have strong reactions – both pro and con – to the controversial energy bill the Senate passed late last month.
Sens. Jim Bunning,R-Ky.,and George Voinovich,R-Ohio,were two of the 27 senators who voted against the legislation.
“This legislation is nothing less than a job killer in Ohio,” Voinovich said in a statement.
“While I will continue to fight for a cleaner environment,I refuse to do so by appeasing extremists who want to take food off the tables of hard-working Ohioans.”
Among workers who would be hard hit by the measure are auto workers,he said.
Many Republicans called the bill a disappointment because it would do nothing to help natural gas or domestic oil production,or the economy.
Democrats,conversely,contend the bill would create jobs.
Sen. Sherrod Brown,D-Ohio,said the bill could give a boost to Ohio,which has lost more than 19 percent of its manufacturing base over the last five years.
“This legislation would accelerate our nation's progress toward energy independence and ensure that Ohio manufacturers play a key role in that progress,” Brown said.
“Our nation needs to shake itself loose from the grip of multi-national oil companies and foreign energy sources. This bill invests in our independence.”
Brown said that regions hurt the most by manufacturing job loss can benefit the most because workers there can provide components required by the alternative energy sector.
Democrats also say the bill will address important issues such as climate change and the rising price of gasoline by exploring alternative fuel options.
The bill will likely be debated by the House in July.
Rep. Steve Chabot,R-Ohio,said when he is presented with similar legislation,he will decide whether to support it.
“Our nation needs to continue to pursue energy policies that decrease our reliance on foreign oil and move our country toward energy independence,” Chabot said in a statement. “I believe this requires a multifaceted approach,which includes increased domestic exploration,greater refining capacity,continued development of alternative energy sources,and improvements in energy efficiency.”
The bill would be the first major change in the nation's fuel-efficiency law since 1975. It would set penalties for gasoline price-gouging,provide government funding for research into fuel-efficient vehicles and require that biofuel use increase by 36 billion gallons by 2025.
Democrats were able to add modified mileage standards onto the bill at the last minute. They will require that average fuel efficiency standards rise from the current 27.5 miles per gallon to 35 mpg for cars,pickup trucks and SUVs by 2020.
Bunning said in a statement that he believes the bill is going too far.
“The Democrats' extreme policies will make the American economy less competitive,cost many men and women their jobs,and waste more of their hard-earned money on higher gasoline and utility prices,” Bunning said. “I believe conservation is important and would like to preserve the environment for future generations of Americans,but I know the difference between responsible environmental policies and using the environment for political gain.”
Republicans did manage to keep Democrats from passing a $32 million package of tax incentives for funding alternative energy and clean fuels. These incentives would have been paid for by increasing taxes on oil companies by $29 billion over the next 10 years.
GOP lawmakers also refused to consider a bill that would require electric utilities to produce at least 15 percent of their power through renewable fuels.
In an effort to expand research on alternative energy,and add jobs for Ohioans,Brown wrote an amendment that was included in the final bill.
It would provide grants to non-profit institutions and private manufacturers to develop ideas and products that could help with renewable energy systems.
Brown's amendment would also urge the Department of Energy to stop delaying loan guarantees to companies using innovative technologies and make sure small manufacturers could get the guarantees.
“We still have a long way to go,but this is a meaningful step,” Brown said.