Congressional Delegation Weighs In on Energy


The U.S. Senate passed the 2007 energy bill last week, and it now moves back to the House of Representatives for further consideration. With that in mind, we at Minnesota Monitor took a look at where our state’s representatives stand on energy policy. Wherever possible, we spoke to the offices of the representatives directly, and if they were not available we looked at their previous statements and votes on the issue.

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn.

Walz supports the Energy and Water Appropriations bill currently making its way through the House of Representatives. “We must act quickly to reduce greenhouse gasses and end our dependence on foreign oil,” he said. “We must seize every opportunity to move this country closer to our renewable fuel goals and I am excited about the unprecedented support for cellulosic ethanol and other energy efficiency programs this legislation provides,” he said. “Furthermore, this legislation provides much need funding for flood protection in hurricane-prone, coastal regions and fully funds nuclear nonproliferation efforts.”

Rep. John Kline, R-Minn.

Kline did not respond to repeated requests for information about his stand on energy policy, and his House website does not list any policy positions on energy, oil or the environment. However, Kline has voted in favor of opening more oil refineries and has repeatedly voted in favor of tax breaks for oil companies. He has been a strong supporter of drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, saying in a debate with former candidate Coleen Rowley, “This is a national security and economic issue. Will it solve all of our oil problems? Absolutely not. It’s not a long-term solution–we do need alternative energy solutions…but we ought to be taking advantage of those huge resources.” Kline has supported ethanol subsidies, saying, “I look forward to gathering bipartisan support to use Minnesota agricultural commodities to fuel our nation.” He also has supported easing environmental regulations on ethanol producing plants.

Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn.

Ramstad supports the energy package currently moving through the House. He voted for the tax provisions that would remove the tax breaks for the oil industry as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Those tax provisions would also move the oil industry closer to renewable energy.

Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn.

McCollum supports the energy package that the House is putting together. “At this moment, Congress has a unique opportunity to promote an independent, sustainable energy policy that will ensure security and prosperity for both Minnesota and the nation,” McCollum said in a press release Wednesday. “Unfortunately, the Bush administration has wasted five years pursuing a path that leads to irreversible climate change, perpetually rising gas prices, and increasing dependence on military action and rogue regimes to secure foreign sources of oil,” she said. McCollum supports rolling back tax breaks for the oil industry as well as investing in alternative energy sources. She also supports mandating 15 percent renewable energy by 2020 and an increase in fuel efficiency standards of 35 miles per gallon by that same year.

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.

In response to an inquiry from Minnesota Monitor, Ellison’s office issued a statement saying, “The Congress is committed to taking our country in a new direction — working in a bipartisan manner to ensure that our air and water are clean, our hazardous waste sites are cleaned up, and our national treasures — including our national parks, national wildlife refuges, and national forests — are protected and preserved.” The statement went on to say that the bill supported by Ellison makes climate change a “key priority.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.

Bachmann did not respond to repeated requests for information about her standing on energy policy, and her House of Representatives website does not give any information about her stances on oil, energy or the environment. Bachmann did vote against the elimination of tax cuts for oil companies and also voted against the energy bill when it passed the U.S. House in January. On the issue of global climate change, Bachmann has previously said, “I don’t think that it has been established yet as a fact that global warming is the issue of the day, and one thing we need to do is look at the science.”

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

Peterson did not respond to a request for information on his position on energy policy, but he is a co-sponsor of the energy bill that passed the House, and is on record as being supportive of ethanol subsidies.

Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn.

Oberstar supports the energy package currently working its was through the House. Oberstar is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and oversaw passage of the energy package that included $1.7 billion for urban and rural transit ridership. Oberstar spokesman John Schadl said, “If we can exact a 10 percent mode shift from cars to transit it would equal the amount of oil we import from Saudi Arabia.”

Andy Birkey and Joe Bodell contributed to this story.