This vote was on an amendment that would have barred a federal agency from financing any renewable energy projects and many projects that aim to develop fossil fuel energy resources abroad.
Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) offered the amendment during consideration of a bill that would extend the life of the Export-Import Bank, a federal agency designed to help support U.S. export jobs by financing foreign purchases of American goods and services. Sen. Vitter’s amendment took aim at the Bank’s efforts to finance U.S. companies which develop products for the renewable energy industry. The Bank would have been barred from assisting any renewable energy-related business ventures. In addition, if the Bank wanted to finance projects that involve U.S. companies helping to develop fossil fuel resources abroad, the Bank would have been required to first certify that there are no similar projects on U.S. soil that would benefit from access to government financing.
Sen. Vitter said his amendment was “borne of real frustration” at the Obama Administration’s response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. President Obama had imposed too many restrictions on drilling in the wake of the spill, Sen. Vitter said, and then rubbed “salt in the wounds” by allowing the Export-Import Bank to finance a project that helps a foreign company drill for oil in Brazil. The loan referred to by Sen. Vitter was granted to Brazilian company Petrobras for the purpose of buying equipment from U.S. companies and hiring American firms for their services.
“Here we have this federal government, through the Ex-Im Bank, financing energy production overseas at the same time as this federal government tries to shut down and make difficult a lot of that activity here at home. That is the frustration that produced this amendment,” Sen. Vitter said.
Opponents of Sen. Vitter’s amendment argued that it would hamstring the Export-Import Bank’s efforts to support job growth in the United States. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) argued that Sen. Vitter’s amendment would put the United States in the backseat when it comes to the growing renewable energy industry.
“To curtail the solutions U.S. companies are working on, whether it is battery technology or smart grid technology or solutions for a whole range of products – you could even say nuclear power solutions or other clean energy source solutions – all of these things would be curtailed under the Vitter amendment,” Sen. Cantwell said. “We do not want to go backward. Not only does the United States want to be a leader in energy solutions in the United States, the United States should have the goal of being an energy winner in the international marketplace, growing jobs through selling solutions that we think can be quite successful in and around the developing world and in China.”
Sen. Vitter’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 37-61. Voting “yea” were 37 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 52 Democrats and 9 Republicans. As a result, the Senate defeated the effort to bar the U.S. Export-Import Bank from financing any renewable energy projects and many projects that aim to develop fossil fuel energy resources abroad.