News Break: Senate “Gang of Ten” Forges Compromise Energy Bill Before August Recess

Gang of 10 forge compromise energy legislationA bipartisan group of Senators calling themselves the “gang of 10” were finally able to package a compromise bill on Friday aimed at breaking the persistent deadlock in the Senate over energy issues.

On one side are Republicans that have remained in lock-step with President Bush’s chiding Democratic opposition to lifting the ban on oil exploration and development offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR); while Democrats have resisted such measures, favoring instead that energy companies pursue oil development in areas for which they already hold federal leases, selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and providing more incentives for renewable energy.

The “Gang of 10”, headed by Democratic Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia introduced the legislation, just hours before Congress left town on their August recess, in hopes that it will break the stalemate and bring forth progress in federal energy policy.

The bill will require opening additional areas for development in the Gulf of Mexico and allow drilling off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, incumbent on approval from those states. Any drilling activity approved by the states would be done at least 50 miles from shore. A commission would also be created recommending areas for leasing in the future.

In compromise to the offshore drilling proposal, the bill provides billions of dollars of research and development money to assist US automakers in achieving the goal of transitioning 85% of all new vehicles to run on alternative, non-petroleum based fuels within 20 years. The Senators propose paying for the spending by eliminating $30 billion in tax breaks for energy companies and requiring that the federal government get its cut of revenue from Gulf of Mexico oil leases. U.S. consumers will receive tax breaks up to $7500 for buying vehicles that run on alternative fuels.

A very important element of the legislation is the extension of tax breaks for renewable energy development and energy efficiency to 2012, something congress has thus far been unable to do in this session. Allowing these tax incentives to expire at the end of the year will mean yet another setback for sustainable energy development so desperately needed.

As with any compromise, few are happy with all elements of the bill. Republican Mel Martinez wants the bill to address drilling in ANWR and oil shale production in the west. Florida Senators object to the proposal to open up more areas in the Gulf of Mexico without the state’s input.

Nonetheless, the bill hammered out by the Gang of 10 likely represents this Congress’ last, best attempt at breaking the intransigence before the November elections. Intransigence fostered, in my view, largely by polarization from the White House, like an impudent teenager not getting his way.

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said he will support the bill, though he does not agree with all the of its proposals:

…I am hopeful this plan can begin to break the current legislative stalemate on the Senate floor.”

So are we.

The Senate will debate the legislation after they return from their five-week break.

Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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  1. As we (globally) are confronted with AGW, we are facing energy security issues, including world-wide peak oil production with increasing demand, which sets the value of a drum of oil. Opening US sensitive environmental areas to offshore drilling will not increase peak oil production today or in 5-10 years as world-wide production declines. We must look to alternate sources of energy immediately for our transportation needs while addressing AGW e.g., renewable wind, solar, and biomass for electricity generation. Oil shale is not a solution given its energy and water extraction demands, environmental destruction (including residues), and GHG emissions. Corn grain ethanol is not a solution due to low net energy gain, GHG emissions, environmental degradation (e.g., water pollution and soil loss), and food supply issues) and cellulosic ethanol doesn’t look favorable due to energy density issues and GHG emissions. Coal without carbon capture and increased pollution abatement is also not a long-term solution.

  2. Im glad im part of the people who believe in this crisis. Those people who think global warming is fake are selfish, and don’t care for their kids, or they are too narrow minded. Its time to make changes around here. I’m not going to let a narrow minded, uneducated person say its fake.

  3. Global warming is a false religion with a false High Priest in Al Gore. Oil was created by God along with this beautiful earth. Those who are opposed to drilling are the ones not caring for the children because without oil our children will not have the same opportunities that we have had. There is no altrnative to oil for the next 20 years plus. Therefore our children will need oil in 5-10 years. Liberalism is one of the most wicked and evil ideals ever perpetrated on the human race. I pray to God that you people would wake up to the truth.

    Sachse, Texas

  4. Global Warming is a sham and the real tragedy of it is that the real problems facing the world will take a back seat. Greed is at the heart of Global Warming. Unfortunately, it is taking some well caring people along for the ride. You may fall into that category.


  5. William,

    I appreciate that you backed off the alarming rhetoric invoking “evil”. I don’t see how that will accomplish anything, and it surely will not change my mind on anything. I don’t accuse conservatives of being evil do I? And why is this issue so often wrapped in political polarization? Is it possible that this really is a scientific issue? Forget about Al Gore. He is not my “High Priest” nor of anyone else I know.

    If you must hold to the belief that climate change is a sham, then there’s not much I can do to change that.
    Too often people come in here with rabid and vitriolic hate speech that serves nothing.

    Can you explain how “greed is at the heart of global warming” in the face of unprecedented profits going to oil companies?
    Finally, I leave you with this quote from Thomas Paine:
    “There is a general and striking difference between the genuine effects of truth itself, and the effects of falsehood believed to be truth. Truth is naturally benign; but falsehood believed to be truth is always furious. The former delights in serenity, is mild and persuasive, and seeks not the auxiliary aid of invention. The latter sticks at nothing.”

  6. The oil companies make approximately 8% profit and that is before the government takes out billions in taxes. This profit percentage is actually low compared to many large corporations. The oil companies are owned by the American people through their 401k’s, pensions, stocks, etc. The oil companies provide a great service to the world by finding, extracting, and refining oil into gasoline which drives our economy and the world’s economy.

    The reason I bring up “evil” and not in a vitrolic voice, the problem with the written word is that you can’t always grasp the tone. Just because I use the word evil does not mean I’m not serene. Liberalism is evil because it limits freedom and therefore the full creative capability of the people. The limiting of creative ability brings suffering, pain, and the continuance of ignorance. The reason I say evil is for what is does to people. For example, the liberal policies over the last 30 years to limit America from drilling for oil and fully utilizing all it’s resources has slowed the growth of the world’s economy causing billions to remain in poverty.

    Obama’s ignorant plea to turn our thermostats down, eat less, and drive smaller vehicles will have the opposite effect that he thinks. If we slow our consumption down the world will suffer more not less. Our economy is driving innovation, growth, and philantropy all around the world.

    On your question of Science. If you ask a free scientist. One that is not bound by atheistic evolution. Then you will find that the science does not add up for Global Warming. It is arogant for man to think he can destroy or save this planet.

    The reason I believe greed is at the heart of Global Warming is that when there was the push to move away from freon it was revealed that Al Gore and many liberals had investments in the government mandated alternative. If you follow the money, Ethanol Subsidies, tax hikes, etc. you will find the real reason for Global Warming.

    As serene as can be,



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