Articals of interest to the coal industry.

Friday, October 27, 2006

We are for the winners at trade associations and do not get involved in the election process, other than voting, but it does appear there could be a shift in the powers that be with the Democrat's taking over the House and maybe the Senate. Congressman Boucher has said he could become vice-chair of the House energy committee. This could be good news for the coal industry as we consider him a very good friend.

Democrats' Energy Focus Hints At Possible Senate Agenda For 2007

Oct 26, 2006
Inside EPA
Democratic Senate candidates’ increasing focus on energy as a major election issue in several races key to control of Congress after the midterm elections suggests that Democrats are likely to push an aggressive new energy agenda should they make gains or take back the upper chamber, several sources say.
As a result of Democrats’ increased focus on energy issues in the election, several observers say that the party is likely to seek new legislation in 2007 on issues including boosting tax credits for alternative fuel vehicle purchases, encouraging development of alternative energy sources, and pursuing bills addressing climate change.
However, other observers and some Republicans expect a “status quo” even if Democrats win leadership of both the House and the Senate. One Republican source says whichever party is in the majority after the midterms will have such a slim majority “nothing much will get done.”
Activists, congressional and industry sources, and other observers of this year’s close Senate races -- including the contests in Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Virginia and Tennessee -- say they have noticed a dramatic increase in the focus on energy issues on the campaign trail compared to previous election cycles.
Several sources say recent high gasoline and natural gas prices, an increased focus on climate change, and a public desire to reduce dependence on foreign oil are all factors making energy a major issue in the elections.
Democrats are already putting pressure on the White House to focus on energy policy next year, calling for funding to “dramatically improve” energy policy in fiscal year 2008. In an Oct. 11 letter to President Bush, 24 Democratic senators wrote that “volatile and increasing energy prices” have caused job losses and increased the country’s trade deficit, while the war in Iraq and growing international competition for limited fossil fuel resources, as well as the threat of global warming, “are clear and present signs that our country must act now to increase our nation’s energy independence.”
The letter calls on the administration’s FY08 budget request to fund “significant” increases in promoting energy efficiency, biofuels, alternative fuels and vehicles, clean coal and carbon sequestration, and boost the production of clean and renewable energy through tax incentives and credits.
One alternative energy advocate says there has been a large increase in the number of Senate races where energy issues, particularly alternatives to oil, fuel economy and climate change have taken on greater significance. The source expects Democrats to push aggressively with legislation addressing these topics, but says much will depend on the outcome of the midterm elections and how many seats Democrats have.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group has also launched a campaign asking all congressional candidates to commit to supporting energy policies to help the United States: reduce dependence on foreign oil by a third in 2025; develop clean, renewable energy sources to supply at least one quarter of energy needs by 2025; save energy with high performance homes and appliances to use 10 percent less energy in 2025 than today; and triple research and development funding for energy-saving and renewable technologies.
In Missouri, Sen. James Talent (R) is locked in a tight race with state auditor Claire McCaskill, the Democratic challenger, and both have been talking up energy issues in recent weeks.
At a renewable energy conference in St. Louis earlier this month, Talent said there was a need for Congress to pass new legislation to promote the use of ethanol nationwide. According to press reports, Talent told the conference that increasing use of ethanol is “the path to energy independence.”
President Bush appeared alongside Talent at the conference to say that federal money should be spent on research and development into alternative energy sources, and also used to provide tax credits to encourage people to buy hybrid vehicles. Bush also said that ethanol should become “a primary source for the fuel people use, which will help us meet our national security and economic concerns and objectives.”
At the same time, McCaskill has been attacking Talent’s record, claiming the senator votes against renewable and clean energy. She cites his 2005 votes against a measure to require that renewable energy sources comprise at least 20 percent of the electricity sold by 2020 and an amendment to the 2005 Energy Policy Act that bars tax incentives for building wind power projects within 20 miles of “high scenic areas.”
McCaskill is also attacking Talent’s record on global warming, after the senator said in a June 22, 2005, speech on the Senate floor “[w]e are not even sure that a warmer Earth is a bad thing.”
Meanwhile, Montana Democratic candidate Jon Tester -- who is locked in a tight race with incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns (R) -- told reporters earlier this month that his priorities if elected would be to focus on energy independence, health care and campaign finance reform.
Tester’s Web site touts the fact that he supported legislation in the Montana Senate to develop ethanol and wind power in the state, and sponsored a successful bill to create a state renewable energy standard. If elected, Tester would make a key issue “investing in bio-fuel technology and wind power development, creating a national renewable standard and promoting energy efficiency and conservation,” the Web site says.
Burns’ Web site addresses reducing dependence on Middle Eastern oil by improving relations with other major oil-producing countries including Russia, Mexico, and several African and South American countries.
Burns also promotes drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and favors expanding the use of natural gas and clean coal technologies. In addition, Burns says, “We have the ability to use hydrogen fuel cells, ethanol fuels, biomass energy, and wind-generated electricity to great benefit.”
Election observers say energy has also emerged as a key factor in Sen. Maria Cantwell’s (D-WA) reelection bid, as she touts a major energy plan in order to fight off a challenge from Republican opponent Mike McGavick, whose campaign could not be reached for comment.
And in Virginia, where Democrat James Webb is challenging incumbent Sen. George Allen (R) in an unexpectedly close race, a Webb spokeswoman says the candidate is linking national security to energy independence on the campaign trail, and says “that’s not something I’ve heard Allen talk about a lot.”
Webb opposes drilling in ANWR, supports a windfall tax on oil companies and “believes we should use the proceeds to develop and deploy renewable energy sources,” according to a Webb statement. The statement says that Allen “has consistently voted against alternative fuel sources” and voted to open up ANWR to drilling eight times.
Spokesmen for both Allen’s Senate office and Allen’s campaign office did not return calls.
Given the increased focus on energy issues by Democrats in the election, one renewable energy industry source expects Democrats to push for revisiting the 2005 Energy Policy Act. The source says Democrats would likely seek to end subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear power that are in the law.
The source also expects Democrats to try to lift limits on incentives for purchasing alternative energy and alternative fuel vehicles, and also says a Democratic Congress may be “more sympathetic” to tightening fuel economy standards. However, the source adds that any push to revise fuel economy standards would be an uphill struggle given the lack of widespread support for such a move.
On some issues related to energy, the source believes that Democrats would be able to work with Republicans to pass legislation, such as bolstering ethanol production.
Ethanol is something that “has got bipartisan support” from many senators, and any legislative package of incentives to bolster its production and use would likely not face any significant challenges, the source adds.
One knowledgeable source expects the energy debate in 2007 not to produce many results, however, because it will deadlock when it “breaks down on bipartisan regional grounds,” for example with lawmakers from Texas and surrounding states advocating policies that benefit the oil industry and refiners, while lawmakers in the Northeast are likely to continue promoting measures that benefit the natural gas industry.
The source says that given there are a “lot of overlapping interests, it’s hard to see [Congress] get any new energy policy done” in the 110th Congress, regardless of which party is in the majority.
A utility industry source echoes that view and says there will be a “partisan logjam” over the next two years that will hinder any broad energy strategy that the Democrats try to push. The source says that although there may be new debates in Congress on climate change, fuel economy and other energy issues, little in the way of legislation on these topics will pass regardless of who is in control. -- Anthony Lacey

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