Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith voted against the Republican energy proposal, H.R. 4 last night, saying that it doesn't do enough to forge an energy policy for the 21st century.
"Our country's energy policy is vitally important to our economy, our environment, and our national security," said Smith. "I strongly believe we need to make an aggressive effort to develop and implement the energy technologies of the future that will allow us to wean our dependency on fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the proposal in front of us shortchanges these investments and actually encourages a greater dependence on fossil fuels."
Smith requested the opportunity to offer his own amendment to the legislation, co-sponsored by fellow New Democrat Coalition Members Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Ron Kind (D-WI), but the House Leadership restricted amendments to the bill.
"My amendment would have made the federal government a leader in using technologies to improve energy efficiency and renewable and alternative sources of energy," Smith said. "Right now, the federal government spends $8 billion a year on energy costs and consumes about 2 percent of all the energy in the country. This kind of commitment to the energy technologies of tomorrow could make a significant difference. I was disappointed that the House was not given the opportunity to debate and vote on this."
Smith said there are several problems with H.R. 4 that make it unacceptable. First, H.R. 4 would provide nearly $7 billion in incentives for fossil fuel exploration and extraction on public lands, a provision Smith opposed as a Member of the House Resources Committee. Although it authorizes increased funding for renewable and energy efficiency research and development and tax credits, Smith points out the money is not there for those investments.
"Ironically, this plan finds real dollars for fossil fuel incentives – it takes the money out of the Land and Water Conservation Fund – but it really only gives lip service to research and tax credits for energy technologies of the future," explained Smith. "I would have supported an amendment to pay for the research and development and tax credits, but unfortunately, the House Leadership did not give us an opportunity to do so."
Second, the legislation does not adequately set standards for more fuel-efficient vehicles. Smith supported an amendment to require sport utility vehicles to meet fuel economy standards of 26 miles per gallon for model years 2006 and 2007, but that amendment was rejected on a 160 - 269 vote.
"Unfortunately, I think we are missing some real opportunities," said Smith. "We should be investing in the energy technologies of the future to help grow our economy and protect our environment. We should set high standards for vehicles, buildings, and appliances and encourage people to purchase more energy-efficient goods. This legislation isn't innovative and creative enough, and I am hopeful that this debate will continue into the fall so that we can enact some forward-thinking energy policies into law."
Smith also voted for an amendment to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but the amendment was defeated.