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House GOP looking at alternative energy

By ERIC SKALAC, MEDILL NEWS SERVICE, Written for UPI   |   May 13, 2011 at 3:46 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, May 13 (UPI) -- After spending weeks focused on oil and nature gas, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are turning some of their attention to alternative energy projects.

At a hearing Friday of the House Natural Resources Committee, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., criticized the Obama administration's efforts to develop both renewable and traditional energy sources, characterizing them as showing an "inherent distrust and opposition to conventional fossil fuels."

And administration catering to environmentalists has "put a brake" on renewable energy, he said.

Republicans called the hearing to question what U.S. President Barack Obama's renewable energy strategy is doing to cut gasoline costs or create jobs.

Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management Director Michael Bromwich testified that Obama's renewable energy strategy had "ambitious but attainable goals" to attain U.S. energy independence and that the bureau had taken steps to expedite applications for renewable energy projects on public land.

Before the hearing, the Department of Interior announced a finalized rule that could contribute to Bromwich's expedited permitting. The rule would accelerate applications for offshore wind energy projects by eliminating a redundant step in the application and could save 6-12 months in the process, the department wrote in the news release.

The Bureau of Land Management is pushing for faster approval of renewable energy project applications by identifying potential controversies early, which allows the agency to forestall the roadblocks, said BLM Director Bob Abbey.

In the past, litigation and lack of funding have forced projects to be delayed or canceled.

House Republicans introduced three bills this spring that aimed to restart and accelerate offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. All three were passed early this month, with the most recent, the provocatively named "Reversing President Obama's Offshore Moratorium Act," voted on Thursday.

Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., claimed the House Republicans proposals treat renewable energy as "an invisible issue" that is "subsumed by an oil-above-all approach."

In addition, Markey asked that House Republicans "reconsider their decision to zero out loan guarantees for wind and solar in their budget."

Markey's state is home to the Cape Wind project, which would put 130 wind turbines off the coast of Cape Cod with the goal of generating three-quarters of the cape's energy requirements.

Markey joined Bromwich in voicing concern about reports that the Department of Energy has decided to stop accepting applications for loan guarantees for renewable energy project. The two men said the Energy Department decision could have a chilling effect on renewable energy projects at a time when the Department of Interior was trying to expedite renewable energy project permits.

A second hearing on renewable energy obstacles is scheduled for later this month.

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