Steffy: Energy issues among the list of Congress’ unfinished business

12 12, 2011 by Fuel Fix

As this session of Congress winds to a close, it will probably be remembered more for what it didn’t do than what it did. That’s especially true when it comes to energy issues. As Politico points out, the list of energy-related legislation that Congress will leave unfinished is a long one:

Lawmakers have failed to pass measures responding to last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill — the worst such disaster in U.S. history — or to act on mine safety legislation despite the April 2010 explosion that killed 29 coal miners in West Virginia.

Also still on ice: GOP-backed proposals to slap down Obama administration energy and environmental policies, a T. Boone Pickens-backed plan to boost natural gas vehicles and more than a dozen bipartisan bills on issues like hydropower, nuclear energy, and oil and gas reserve inventories, which have cleared a key Senate committee.

The lack of initiatives on energy contrasts with “a spate of energy legislation enacted during the latter years of the George W. Bush administration,” Politico says.

The reasons are almost as long as the list of dying legislation. Both parties accuse the other of playing politics with energy issues, the Republicans accuse the Obama administration of a lack of leadership on energy initiatives and debt and fiscal issues have dominated lawmakers’ attention in recent months — although they haven’t done much on that front, either.

And so another year goes by and what passes for a national energy policy continues to stagnate. Congress can’t seem to respond to past crises or chart a course for the future. Meanwhile, oil markets are changing globally and domestically. OPEC meets later this week, and it’s likely to be another showdown over production quotas between Iran and Saudi Arabia with profound implications for the U.S. Gasoline prices could well top $4 a gallon by this spring, and all the while Washington dithers.