Senate begins debating their version of energy policy

By Sylvie Dale, Online Editor

March 6, 2002 — The U.S. Senate began debate Tuesday on a large energy bill that has polarized Republicans and Democrats over how best to improve energy supplies.

Senate Bill 517, which will probably be debated into next week, covers such hot-button topics as President George W. Bush’s proposal to allow drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and gas mileage standards from new cars and trucks, Reuters News Service reported.

The Senate energy bill emphasizes renewable energy fuels and raises vehicle fuel economy standards.

The dramatically different House version, finished earlier, proposes drilling for new sources of oil. Republicans estimate that 16 billion barrels of crude could come from the Alaska refuge.

The Bush administration has criticized the bill for not allowing drilling in the Arctic refuge. The administration also said that higher mileage standards could lead to losses of autoworker jobs and additional passenger fatalities, Reuters reported.

Democrats, Republicans and industry groups may be able to agree on raising the amount of renewable fuels blended into gasoline, which could go from 1.5 billion gallons currently to 5 billion gallons in 2012.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) will seek to add a provision with companies like Enron Corp. in mind. Feinstein has suggested that over the counter energy trading be placed under government oversight. Currently, companies are exempted from having to reveal details of transactions in over the counter trading of electricity, natural gas, oil, gasoline and other energy commodities.

When the Senate passes its version, it will have to be reconciled with the version the House has already passed.

Other provisions in the Senate Energy Bill
“- Creates a Renewable Fuels Standard that will triple ethanol production over the next decade.
“- Requires electric suppliers to produce 10 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources, such as wind, by 2020.
“- Makes farmer-owned ethanol cooperatives eligible, for the first time, for the existing small producer tax credit.
“- Creates a new tax incentive to promote the use of biodiesel, a soybean-based fuel.
“- Permits municipal utilities and rural electrical cooperatives to take advantage of existing renewable energy tax credits.
“- More than doubles funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), increasing the annual authorization to $3.4 billion.
“- Provides grants, loans, and tax incentives for investments in energy development on Indian lands.
“- Provides a five-year extension of the production tax credit for electricity generated by wind, solar, geothermal, or biomass (crops, poultry waste, bovine waste).

For more details on the bill, visit http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d107:S.517:.

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