House passes comprehensive energy bill

28 April 2005

The US Energy Policy Act of 2005 has passed in the House of Representatives with a vote of 249-183.

The main nuclear energy provisions in the ‘HR6’ bill include:

  • Updating the Price-Anderson Act for nuclear insurance, including renewal for 20 years, to 31 December 2025.
  • $2.25 billion for nuclear energy research and development programmes – including the Generation IV and the Nuclear Power 2010 initiatives – over the next five fiscal years, plus an additional $1.25 billion for next generation nuclear plant programmes. The latter figure is made up of $150 million a year for FY’06-’10, plus $500 million for construction of the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP).
  • Over $1.35 billion over the next ten fiscal years for ‘nuclear matters’, most of which ($1.32 billion) is for hydrogen production programmes.
  • Over $1.3 billion worth of tax breaks over ten years to update the tax treatment of nuclear decommissioning trust funds.
In addition, some of the $4.0 billion over five years earmarked in HR6 for hydrogen programmes will go towards production of hydrogen from nuclear sources.

The energy bill budgets for some $89 billion (including $8 billion worth of tax incentives) over 10 years. Of this, $39.5 billion is earmarked for research and development programmes.

The bill also contains a number of controversial measures, which include: allowing for oil exploration in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR); some $2 billion for research into deep water oil and gas development; and a provision to shield producers of the gasoline additive MTBE from product liability lawsuits arising from groundwater contamination. It is this provision that caused the Senate to block the passage of the energy bill at the end of 2003.

An amendment to HR6 brought by Lois Capps (Democrat-California) to remove the MTBE liability waiver was voted down by 219-213. However, the bill would phase out use of MTBE by the end of 2014, and provides $2 billion over eight years to assist manufacturers shift away from producing it.

Energy secretary Samuel Bodman said: “This bill will put us on a path to affordable and reliable supplies of energy in the future by improving energy efficiency; increasing domestic energy supplies; diversifying our energy sources to include more renewable energy sources; and modernising our energy delivery system.” He added: “I hope the Senate can get a bill out of the Congress and to the president this summer, before the August recess.”

  • Speaking recently to businessmen, US president George Bush urged new nuclear build. Comparing nuclear's 20% share of generation in the USA with 78% in France, Bush said: "Nuclear power is one of the safest, cleanest sources of power in the world, and we need more of it in America." He said: "Our country is on the doorstep of incredible technological advances that will make energy more abundant and more affordable for our citizens. By harnessing the power of technology, we're going to be able to grow our economy, protect our environment and acheive greater energy independence."

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