Lawmakers consider energy measures in stimulus

WASHINGTON Thu Jan 22, 2009 6:27pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday was set to approve energy measures included in Democrats' economic recovery package, even though a leading Republican criticized the bill as too narrow.

The $825 billion plan would spend about $25 billion on renewable energy, energy efficiency and electricity transmission.

The package would also promote the development of so called smart power grid technology to support alternative energy use, plug-in hybrid vehicles and boost energy efficiency.

Under the legislation, the government also would provide financial assistance of up to 50 percent of the costs for advanced grid technology necessary for certain electric utilities developing smart grid demonstration projects.

Ranking Republican committee member Joe Barton of Texas said he believed the plan short changes funding for carbon capture and storage technology and ignores nuclear power.

Barton called the $2.4 billion devoted to clean coal development in the economic stimulus legislation "relatively miserly."

"In my opinion, the energy provisions before us over-stimulate a small area of our economy and neglect the rest," Barton said in a statement.

At the hearing Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman said the legislation's loan guarantee program does not address nuclear power because the bill is focused on bolstering the economy within two years and no nuclear plants are set to come on line in that time.

Several other House committees will take up other parts of the economic stimulus package and then send the measure to the Senate.

The Democratic-controlled Congress hopes to have a final bill on U.S. President Barack Obama's desk for his signature into law by the Presidents Day holiday on February 16.

The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee approved $20 billion in energy tax credits and related financial incentives for inclusion in the economic stimulus package.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by David Gregorio)

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