WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives in Tuesday’s elections, picking up at least 60 seats, and now will take control of powerful committees that will likely derail President Barack Obama’s plans for comprehensive energy legislation.
Republicans have opposed ideas such as cap-and-trade to control emissions and relying on renewable fuels to solve America’s energy problems. Instead they generally support expanded use of traditional energy sources.
Here are the Republicans likely to head key committees that will shape energy legislation during the next Congress:
House Natural Resources Committee
Representative Doc Hastings of Washington is expected take charge as the top Republican on the committee, which has jurisdiction over most of the nation’s public lands. During the new Congress, Hastings — who has held office since 1995 and founded the Congressional Nuclear Cleanup Caucus — is expected to push for expanding oil and gas drilling on public lands and offshore.
“New offshore drilling would create over a million new jobs at no cost to American taxpayers — in fact it would actually make taxpayers money,” Hastings wrote in a March editorial in The Washington Times.
“It is clear that more drilling is not the single magic solution to our nation’s energy crisis — but it is an important component that can’t be ignored.”
House Energy and Commerce Committee
Representative Fred Upton of Michigan, the No. 2 Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, is expected to take the chairmanship because party rules would prevent ranking member Joe Barton from another term as the top committee Republican.
Upton — who worked in the Office of Management and Budget under President Reagan and was elected to Congress in 1986 — is expected to back nuclear power.
“Despite nuclear power’s tremendous potential, the nation is lacking a coherent policy as we look toward the future. Nuclear was largely ignored as the job-killing cap-and-tax scheme made its way through the House last June,” Upton wrote in an op-ed piece in The Hill newspaper in April.
“The world’s leading emitters understand the importance of nuclear power in reducing emissions. It is well past time we do the same or risk being left behind.”
Barton, although term-limited by Republican leadership rules, has said he wants the Energy and Commerce chairmanship and will seek a waiver from the party. The Texan has tussled with Republican leadership in the past, challenging John Boehner for the minority leader job in 2006 and drawing fire for apologizing to BP Plc after the Gulf Coast oil spill.
Barton has pushed for more offshore drilling and criticized the cap-and-trade legislation the House passed last summer.
“There will be no cap-and-trade bill ... It’s not just endangered, it’s extinct,” he NPR radio on Wednesday.
House Ways and Means Committee
Representative Dave Camp is expected to take over the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which controls taxes. Camp, whose Michigan district is home to wind and solar manufacturers, has cosponsored legislation to invest in renewable energy research and create incentives for renewable development.
He also has come out as a strong supporter of ethanol biofuels, introducing tax credits for automakers to conduct research, growers who put acreage into ethanol and consumers who buy more expensive alternative-fueled cars.
“It is imperative that policies are in place to encourage the research and development of new, cellulosic fuels that use crop and animal waste and greater use of solar, wind, clean coal and other new energy technologies,” Camp said on his website.
However, Camp has been critical of proposals to use tax increases on more traditional energy sources like oil and natural gas to spur renewable energy growth.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
Republican Darrell Issa, who will likely head the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is expected to intensify investigations of the Interior Department’s oversight of the oil and gas industry, especially relating to the BP oil spill. He threatened to seek a subpoena earlier this year to force Interior to comply with a committee probe.
“Taxpayers, especially in the Gulf region, have a right to know what happened on a federal level that could have prevented or minimized the destruction,” Issa said in July.
Issa may also investigate government climate change scientists, who came under fire last year over leaked emails that global warming skeptics said showed leading researchers tried to silence dissenters and manipulate climate science.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has served as ranking Republican on the committee, but a ballot showdown will determine whether Murkowski — who lost the Republican primary in Alaska but ran a strong write-in campaign for re-election — will return to Washington.
Write-in votes represented 41 percent of the vote on Wednesday, and Republican nominee Joe Miller had 34 percent.
Murkowski worked closely with committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman on a comprehensive energy bill last year, although she opposed Democrats’ proposals to address climate change. If Murkowski doesn’t return to the Senate, North Carolina’s Richard Burr would likely become ranking member.
Burr voted against the energy bill Murkowski supported, which passed the committee with three other Republican votes.
Reporting by Emily Stephenson and Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Walter Bagley