House Approves Offshore Drilling, Extends Clean Energy Tax Credits

Following months of debate and squabbling, the House of Representatives just passed a bill that could open America’s coasts to offshore drilling, as well as extend the tax credits for clean energy and offer other incentives for clean power and green transportation. Passing 236 to 189 in a late night vote the ‘Comprehensive American Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act,’ or HR 6899, allows for drilling 100 miles offshore, or 50 miles if states would allow it. The bill also calls for repealing tax breaks for big oil, and using those funds to create new credits for plug-in hybrid vehicles, energy efficiency programs and clean coal.

Republicans are already crying foul because the measure was only unveiled very recently, giving the opposition barely a day to review the proposed legislation and no opportunity for input. Additionally, the White House and House Reps say that the bill also stifles offshore drilling by limiting it to 50 miles off the coast, should states allow, which critics say is unlikely since the bill doesn’t let the states collect oil lease royalty revenue.

Further ruffling Republican feathers, the bill also creates a federal renewable portfolio standard that would require 15 percent of the nation’s electricity to be generated from renewable sources. Going beyond states’ mandates is viewed as a form of “big government” with which Republicans disagree.

But remember the bill is far from becoming law. The Senate will likely debate its own energy package later this week in the form of a bipartisan proposal put forward by the “Gang of 20,” which allows for even less offshore drilling than the House bill. Following a vote in the Senate, the two houses would have to conference on a compromise. But the clock is ticking as Congress is set to adjourn on September 26th.