PI Original Josh Kalven Wednesday September 17th, 2008, 1:15pm

Six Illinois Republicans Vote Against Compromise Energy Bill

Yesterday, the U.S. House passed the Democrat-sponsored Comprehensive Energy Security Act by a 236-189 margin. The bill would release 70 billion barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, allow offshore drilling over 50 miles from the U.S. coast, roll back tax ...

Yesterday, the U.S. House passed the Democrat-sponsored Comprehensive Energy Security Act by a 236-189 margin.  The bill would release 70 billion barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, allow offshore drilling over 50 miles from the U.S. coast, roll back tax breaks for the five largest oil companies, provide tax credits for renewable energy development/conservation, and require utilities to generate 15 percent of their electricity from alternative sources.

All 11 Illinois Democrats voted in favor of the measure, as well as GOP Reps. Mark Kirk and Ray Lahood.  Meanwhile, the six remaining Illinois Republicans -- Peter Roskam, Judy Biggert, John Shimkus, Don Manzullo, Tim Johnson, and Jerry Weller -- opposed the bill.

Despite taking part in the GOP's "drilling is the only answer" antics in August, Roskam explained his nay vote this way: "Any bill that ignores nuclear, anti-idling conservation and basic research is no comprehensive energy bill." Biggert toed a similar line, emphasizing the bill's exclusion of nuclear power in a press release yesterday.  (Could we be witnessing the start of a "Nuke Baby Nuke" movement?)

Yet Rep. Shimkus' response really takes the cake.  He too was one of the many Republicans who railed against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier in the summer for her decision to adjourn the chamber for August recess before holding a vote on offshore drilling.  At the Illinois state fair on August 12, he lambasted the Democrats for "doing nothing." And an August 14 article by the right-wing CNSNews.com quoted him as saying he welcomed Pelosi's suggestion at the time that she was open to increased offshore drilling as part of a larger plan:

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) said he would like to see some sort of deal worked out with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that allowed drilling but obviated a showdown.

“We’re in a position right now of the Democrats trying to figure out what to do, an energy bill that addresses the needs presented today,” Shimkus told CNSNews.com.

“Let’s have a vote. I would rather have a comprehensive energy plan. Speaker Pelosi mentioned she would be open to more drilling and exploration. We would like to follow up. She should come back to the floor, so then we wouldn’t have to worry about the moratorium or a presidential veto,” he added.

So what did Shimkus do yesterday when Pelosi "had a vote" on a bill that allowed "more drilling and exploration"?  Ironically, he tried to adjourn the House before the vote could be held.  Twice.

He also took to the floor to criticize the bill, singling out the lack of any provision "to advance coal use."  Holding up a chunk of Illinois coal, he asserted: "Speaker Pelosi hates coal.  Hates it!"  It's worth a watch:

If you skip ahead to the 3-minute mark in the above video, you'll see Rep. Manzullo take the podium.  Rather than defend his vote against the bill by citing the need for more focus on nuclear or coal-powered energy, Manzullo claimed that the measure "really continues to keep those [offshore] areas closed."  He then went on to advance the false suggestion that increased drilling off of our coasts will provide "breathing time" while we develop clean energy technologies:

Until these technologies come on line, we have to increase our supply of oil to give us the relief we need, to give us the time that we need.  We have enough oil now in order to fuel 60 million cars for 60 years.  Does it mean we use it up all?  Of course we don't.  We simply need this as an opportunity for a breathing time until we can develop these new technologies.

The idea that increased offshore drilling will provide relief faster than a serious commitment to renewable fuels and alternative automotive technology is ludicrous.  Here again is Architecture 2030's wonderful graphic showing how the benefits of offshore drilling really represent a drop in the bucket -- a drop that won't actually hit the bucket in full until about 2030 (click image for larger version):

Back in August, Grist's David Roberts summarized the Capitol Hill energy debate this way:

Democratic leaders have signaled that they are willing to meet Republicans halfway in order to pass a comprehensive energy policy. Republicans have refused, demanding a vote that would do nothing but serve the interests of their oil company donors.

Last night's events only reinforce this storyline.

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