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46111

Energy, trade likely 2007 House of Representatives priorities

In her opening statement to the U.S. House of Representatives, newly elected Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called for "A new America that declares our energy independence, promotes domestic sources of renewable energy, and confronts climate change."

In doing so, she signaled that the Democratic leadership sees energy policy as one of the priority issues for legislative action for the 110th Congress.

The new leaders of the House of Representatives committees charged with legislation on major domestic and international economic issues also see free-trade agreements, a new farm bill, export controls and restrictions on foreign investment in the United States as key priorities in 2007.

The November 2006 elections gave majority control of the House to the Democratic Party, altering the leadership of the House and of the House committees.

Under Colin Peterson of Minnesota (and ranking minority member Bob Goodlatte of Virginia), the committee will push for a new multiyear farm bill that offers commodity support protections and market promotion opportunities for U.S. farmers and ranchers. The current farm bill was written in 2002 and many of its provisions will expire in September 2007. Peterson’s record shows that he has defended farm-support programs and promoted increased use of ethanol and biodiesel fuels.

The committee also is expected to ask for a new probe into the extent of corruption in dealings under the United Nation's Oil-for-Food Program -- especially addressing whether the kickbacks paid constituted unfair trade practices under U.S. law and World Trade Organization rules.

Under John Dingell of Michigan (and ranking minority member Joe Barton of Texas), House Democrats are preparing an energy package that would withdraw billions of dollars worth of oil-drilling tax incentives and raise billions more in federal revenue by boosting federal royalties paid by oil and gas companies for offshore production. The new funds would be used to offset revenue losses caused by new tax breaks for renewable energy sources.

In contrast to other Democrats on the Senate energy committee, Dingell has said that he is not convinced that the scientific consensus on climate change is exactly accurate, and also has said he is not sure about the efficacy of many of the currently proposed solutions to global warming. He pushed fuel economy standards in the 1970s but has opposed raising them since then.

In a December 2006 interview, he said he will be working on new efficiency standards for new vehicles that could be achieved "without destituting American industry." He is a co-sponsor of a July 2006 Democratic energy independence bill that was intended to promote fuel efficiency and modern vehicle technology through biofuels research and infrastructure development, transit and rail infrastructure development and the use of alternative fuels in federal and state fleets of vehicles.

In her opening statement to the U.S. House of Representatives, newly elected Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called for "A new America that declares our energy independence, promotes domestic sources of renewable energy, and confronts climate change."

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