Bill aims to wean US off of foreign oil

Legislation to be filed Thursday would put $140m. into joint energy plan.

oil derrick 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
oil derrick 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The United States would commit $20 million a year over seven years to joint Israeli-American alternative energy projects under new legislation to be filed Thursday. The measure aims to wean America off of foreign oil as well as find environment-friendly energy solutions. To that end, it would provide grant money to Israeli firms, academic labs or government agencies which work with American counterparts on developing technologies based on renewable resources such as wind and solar power or on making current technologies more energy efficient. "President Bush identified American reliance on foreign oil as an economic, environmental and national security problem that we must address," said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-California) in seeking co-sponsors for the House bill, of which he now has more than 50. "Israel shares this vital interest." A similar version of the legislation was introduced in the Senate last week by Gordon Smith (R-Oregon), whose aide said Israel made a good partner because it "has developed and deployed some of the world's most advanced technologies in renewable and alternative energies." Last year, the House version passed, but the Senate bill was held up. Now, though, one of the chief co-sponsors of the Senate bill is Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bill's subject and should speed up the legislative process. "We didn't fail last time as much as run out of time," said Don MacDonald, Sherman's foreign policy aide, who noted that the bill came to the Senate towards the end of the session. Now there's more time available - and there's a different leadership in the Senate backing the legislation. American Jewish Congress Executive Director Neil Goldstein said that momentum on the issue has been growing since his organization began pushing such an initiative in 2004. "Support has built tremendously over the last couple of years," he said, pointing to greater awareness of energy pitfalls as well as threats to energy markets posed by countries such as Iran. Israeli officials from the National Infrastructures Ministry were on Capitol Hill on Tuesday for talks with members of Congress about the importance of the bill. One Israeli Embassy source described the bill as a "priority," but said he didn't expect to see real movement on the legislation until the beginning of May, in part because the Congress will be on recess for two weeks starting Monday.