Penn State Students React To Revised Energy Bill

This story was written by Katharine Lackey, Daily Collegian
With the United States Senate gearing up to vote this week on a reworked Energy Independence and Security Act, reaction varied at Pennsylvania State University on two main tenets of the bill -- setting efficiency standards and repealing tax breaks for oil companies.

"It's a really strong first momentous step to combating climate change," said Eco-Action member Mark Garner. "It's going to save consumers at the pump ... and it's going to start in the right direction with renewable energy."

The legislation, passed by the United States House of Representatives on Thursday, aims to raise the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards from a current level of 27.5 miles per gallon (mpg) for cars and 22.2 mpg for trucks to 35 mpg for new cars and trucks by 2020, the first increase mandated by Congress since 1975.

Alex Weller, Penn State College Libertarians president, said he disagrees with the general concept of the bill.

"I don't understand why we need a national energy bill," he said.

United States Senator Bob Casey, D-Pa., showed his support of the bill by voting Friday to advance the legislation, said Kendra Barkoff, Casey's spokeswoman.

"Senator Casey believes we need to move towards greater energy and security, and we need to improve our CAFE standards," Barkoff said.

After speaking before the House, Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., voted against the legislation Thursday because it does not expand American production of oil, said Travis Windle, Peterson's spokesman.

"Despite the name of the bill, there was no energy in the bill. The bill, if anything, if enacted would discourage energy production here at home, which would, in turn, drive American jobs further overseas," he said.

After a 53-42 vote on Friday, the bill stalled in the Senate, where it will need to be reworked. The House bill passed 235-181.

President George W. Bush has already vowed to use his veto pen on the legislation, Barkoff added.

Enrique Ortiz, Penn State College Democrats president, said the legislation, while overdue, is a step in the right direction.

"The energy dollars we would normally send to the Middle East, we will start investing that in the energy independence of this country," he said.

Russell Chuderewicz, professor of economics, said it makes sense to increase CAFE standards as a way to move consumers away from inefficient cars.

"The preference among consumers is to drive these gas guzzlers," he said.

"The only way to prevent people from buying them is if they're not available and one way to make them less available is to increase CAFE standards."

The bill would also rescind $13 billion in tax subsidies to oil companies and invest it in research for alternative and renewable energy -- a move some at Penn State consider controversial.

"When you tax the oil companies," Chuderewicz said, "you're basically taxing the people because the oil companies are basically able to pass that tax onto the consumers."

But, Garner said, the legislation shouldn't increase the price of oil.

"With the $13 billion in subsidies, it should not cost the oil industry any money at all because they're seeing record prices," he said.

Ortiz said that while it's important to have specific deadlines, such as the CAFE standard increase by 2020, there should also be a continuing goal that "never ceases to exist."

"We need to have something that keeps going that will be for a long time," he said.
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