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Energy bill faces big hurdles

The measure draws fire for failing to promote U.S. oil production.

June 13, 2007|Richard Simon | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The White House on Tuesday found a lot to dislike about the first big energy bill to come before the Democratic-controlled Congress, complicating passage of the measure.

The administration complained that the bill being debated in the Senate "does nothing" to promote domestic production of oil and natural gas, a criticism echoed by a number of Republican senators.

The White House threatened a veto if the bill includes a provision that would make gasoline price-gouging a federal offense.

It also criticized a provision that would boost vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, reiterating the administration's long-standing position that the miles-per-gallon rules "should not be set arbitrarily by statute," but it stopped short of threatening a veto over that provision.

The administration also opposed an effort, expected as early as today, to add a requirement that utilities generate 15% of their electricity from alternative sources, such as solar and wind power, by 2020. The White House contends that the requirement would "result in higher electricity costs for consumers in areas where renewable resources are less available and could place new strains on electricity reliability needs."

The bill calls for an increase in the fleet-wide average fuel economy standards for vehicles to 35 mpg by 2020, up from 25. It would boost domestic production of alternative fuels to 36 billion gallons annually by 2022, fund projects to capture greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other polluters, and promote energy efficiency.

Joining in the criticism, Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) called the measure a "green energy bill" and added, "To get my vote, it's going to have to have some production."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also complained that the bill "won't do a single, solitary thing to lower gas prices."

Lawmakers from both parties who want to increase energy production plan to push for votes on such measures as giving states the option to withdraw from the long-standing ban on new offshore oil drilling.

The extensive criticism of the bill -- environmentalists dislike some of the provisions too -- underscores the difficulty Democrats face in getting a bill to the president that he will sign.

But Democrats hope lawmakers will respond to public pressure to do something about high gas prices and global warming. They noted that the 2005 energy bill signed into law by Bush already included measures aimed at spurring new drilling.


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