Controversial US energy bill stalled

Energy policy is currently high up on the political agenda for both the EU and the US. Although passed by Congress, a controversial energy bill on 21 November failed a test vote in Senate.

In light of recent power failures in the US, an overhaul of the US policy is high on the agenda of the Bush administration. A Republican-written bill, which US Congress passed on 18 November, has sparked fresh controversy. A test vote in the Senate on 21 November did not give it the necessary majority.

The proposed bill would provide 31 billion US dollars in tax breaks, incentives and new federal spending to promote the production of oil, natural gas, coal and electricity. It would also set mandatory electric reliability standards and incentives to build new transmission lines.

Supporters say that the bill would make the US bulk power grid more reliable, foster the development of new US natural gas resources and reduce the country's dependency on imported oil.

However, opponents have attacked the bill for slanting the market in favour of the nuclear and fossil fuel industry, while turning away from the development of clean renewable alternatives. Another criticism concerns plans to protect petrochemical firms producing MTBE (a fuel additive suspected of causing cancer) from product-defect law suits.

Experts predict that the failed vote in the Senate has effectively killed the bill for this year, but the Senate majority leader has vowed to hold another vote on the bill in the next few days.

While the US debates its energy policy, the EU is discussing similar issues. The Commission is expected to issue a new Communication on the security of electricity supply on 3 December, focusing on infrastructure investment to increase the reliability of the European grid.

 

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