WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A House committee voted on Wednesday to expand U.S. daylight-saving time by two months to help reduce energy consumption, but rejected a plan to shave total U.S. oil demand by 1 million barrels a day.
Both proposals were offered as amendments to be tacked on to a broad energy bill that was debated by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The panel agreed in a voice vote to move the start of daylight-saving time in the United States — which occurs when clocks are turned forward by one hour — one month earlier to the first Sunday in March. The end of daylight time would be moved back one month to the last Sunday in November.
Supporters of the amendment, sponsored by Michigan Republican Fred Upton, said it would save about 10,000 barrels of oil a day because offices and stores would be open while it was still light outside and therefore use less energy.
The move would also help businesses in downtown areas, supporters said. “There’s more economic activity, because people feel they can walk around safely,” said Democrat Edward Markey of Massachusetts.
The committee voted down, 39 to 12, a separate amendment to require the federal government to find a way to cut U.S. oil demand by 1 million barrels a day by 2013. The amendment offered by Democrat Henry Waxman of California aimed to reduce imports of crude oil.
Lawmakers with automakers in their districts led the fight to defeat Waxman’s proposal, arguing it was backdoor way to require U.S. mini-vans, sport utility vehicles and pick-up trucks to improve their fuel efficiency.
The amendment did not mandate any specific action to reduce oil consumption, but supporters said raising vehicle fuel efficiency standards was an option.
Some lawmakers argued it made sense to tighten the mileage requirements of new vehicles because gasoline demand accounts for about 40 percent of U.S. oil use.
“We have to reduce our growing demand for oil … and this energy bill (without this amendment) doesn’t do that,” said Democratic Rep. Thomas Allen (news, bio, voting record) of Maine.
The committee’s chairman, Republican Joe Barton of Texas, said he wants the panel to finish writing the energy bill next week so it can be sent to the House floor for a final vote.
About four dozen more amendments may still be offered to the bill during the committee’s debate.
One planned amendment would protect water supplies from certain types of oil drilling. Another would strike language from the bill that allows the Energy Department to approve permits to build new oil refineries or restore mothballed ones in communities with high unemployment rates.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee may begin voting on its own energy legislation later this month.