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In House Bill, Clean Energy on the GOP Chopping Block 13 Times

Thirteen amendments—some merely symbolic—target wind power, carbon-zero building standards, efficiency measures for lighting, batteries and more.

Jun 13, 2012
(Page 2 of 3 )
House Republican leadership press conference

One of its recipients was solar panel maker Solyndra, which got $528 million before going bankrupt last summer, in a scandal that Republicans have used to hammer Obama. Going back to 2005, the entire DOE loan program has given more than $35 billion to nearly 40 projects, which the agency says has helped to create some 62,000 jobs.

This amendment would prohibit the DOE from spending any of its Title 17 funding on projects that would qualify for Section 1705 awards, a purely symbolic provision given that the 1705 program expired eight months ago. Sponsor: Rep Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)

"This is the no-more-Solyndras amendment," Jordan said at last week's House meeting.

6. Section 1705 loan program that backed Solyndra. A similarly nominal amendment would bar the DOE from spending any budget money to create new loan guarantees under the Section 1705 program. Obama's 2013 budget proposal didn't request any new funds for the long-expired initiative. Sponsor: Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.)

7. Rules for paying back loan guarantees. The 2005 Energy Policy Act says that the DOE can't "subordinate" any loan obligation—meaning, if a loan winner goes belly-up and the government has to cover its losses, then the DOE must be first in line to get paid back.

But in the case of Solyndra, that isn't what happened. The DOE agreed to let private investors collect $75 million from Solyndra first. The House amendment charges that the DOE violated the 2005 act by doing that, and it would prohibit the agency from subordinating again on existing loan guarantees. Sponsor: Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.)

8. Federal energy-efficiency standards for light bulbs. The Bush administration's 2007 energy law sets multiyear efficiency requirements for light bulbs sold in America. The rules took effect on Jan. 1, 2012, and effectively ban the sale of traditional 100-watt incandescent bulbs. By July 2013, stores wouldn't be able to stock traditional 75-watt bulbs either.

Tea Party conservatives and libertarians have cast the light-bulb rules as an invasion of personal liberties. This provision would prohibit the DOE from spending money to enforce the rules in the 2013 fiscal year. Congress passed a similar measure last year that blocks the law in the current fiscal year. Sponsor: Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas)

9. Nearly 40-year-old efficiency requirement for DOE grant winners. Section 325 of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, passed in 1975 by Gerald Ford, requires that winners of any DOE grant of more than $1 million must meet federal efficiency standards for lighting. That means universities, nonprofits and businesses that have won grants and have inefficient lighting at their facilities have to pony up for upgrades. The amendment would strike this requirement. Sponsor: Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.)

10. Energy-efficiency rules for showerheads. Twenty years ago, Congress passed a measure that stipulates that showerheads can't release more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute. This provision would bar the DOE from enforcing that efficiency rule, despite being the norm for showerhead manufacturing. Sponsor: David Schweikert (R-Ariz.)

11. Energy-saving standards for battery chargers. In March, the DOE proposed new energy-efficiency standards for battery chargers for consumer products like laptops, cell phones and digital cameras. This amendment would prevent the agency from requiring energy-efficient chargers for electric golf carts. The rule would still apply to the other products. Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.)

Fortenberry told the House that tightening requirements on golf cart battery chargers would force manufacturers to shift production to lower-wage countries. Lincoln-based Lester Electrical, the nation's only golf cart charger maker, falls in Fortenberry's district, E&E Daily reported this week (sub. req'd).

12. Expense payouts by DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). In the past, ARPA-E, a DOE department dedicated to creating technology breakthroughs, has reimbursed its grant recipients for expenses, including advertising for their products or meeting with bankers to raise capital. An August 2011 audit report by the DOE's Inspector General disagreed with this practice, saying that the agency shouldn't help grant winners promote themselves. This amendment would block ARPA-E from covering such costs. Sponsor: Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.)

13. DOE-backed media campaign to tout green technologies. Section 801 of the 2007 energy law directs the DOE to run a 10-year national media campaign to promote energy efficiency for homes and businesses and curbing America's appetite for fossil fuels. The act authorized Congress to spend up to $5 million a year for five years to run the campaign. This provision would ban Congress from approving the expenditure. (To date, the DOE has neither launched such a media campaign nor requested funds for it.) Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.)

The House energy bill did include two pro-clean energy amendments, both from Democrats:

1. Obama's clean-car rules for federal fleets. In May 2011, Obama announced that by 2015 all light-duty vehicles that federal agencies buy or lease must be alternative-fuel vehicles, including hybrid or electric cars or ones that run on compressed natural gas or biofuels. This amendment would require compliance with the president's memorandum. Sponsor: Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.).

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