Early season snows have come to parts of Idaho this year.  Winter snow is generally a good thing in Idaho when you consider water scarcity issues in the West and the winter recreation season, but, as is the case in other states, winter weather also brings home the hard reality of rising energy costs.  We’re already experiencing considerable discomfort at the gas pump; with winter’s arrival, heating bills are also increasing.

Congress has been working to reconcile differences between House and Senate versions of important energy legislation passed this summer.  The best compromise will encourage conservation with incentives, promote cost-effective and reasonably-paced alternative fuel development and move us toward self-sustaining, domestic fuel supplies.  This can only be accomplished if policies reflect careful consideration of economic, national security and environmental implications.

I supported the Senate-passed energy bill in June, which included reasonable corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards.  The legislation also increased requirements for biofuels, another important step toward conservation and U.S. energy security.  Provisions that encourage domestic development of alternative fuels and promote geothermal energy are good for the U.S. economy and environment.  However, I have concerns about emerging House legislation.

The House has agreed to a compromise that includes CAFE standards, substantially increased biofuels production and renewable portfolio standards (RPS) that require utilities to include 11 percent renewable fuels in their energy portfolios.  It also includes tax incentives that the Senate moved to stand-alone legislation when it passed its version in June.   Forcing utilities to adopt a mandatory minimum percentage of renewable energy will have disastrous consequences for the consumer.  Someone has to foot the bill and, often, when government imposes a mandate rather than providing incentives for private industry to accomplish the same outcome, end-users and taxpayers pay.

Similarly, when government imposes taxes on industry, those costs are passed onto consumers.  If the government taxes energy development or production, the consumer pays.  I oppose these tax increases and the current House bill because it contains just such provisions.  Paying for provisions by repealing successful tax breaks contained in the 2005 energy bill would significantly discourage investment and development of domestic energy resources, leading to even greater “pain at the pump.