After weeks of haggling over the details, a Congressional conference committee has finally come up with a compromise energy plan which it is ready for approval by a White House eager to enact the legislation.
The bill's key provisions include incentives for increasing domestic production and refinement of oil and natural gas, but environmental critics worry that it actually will do little to reduce dependence on foreign oil producers. For starters, the compromise bill no longer includes language originally in the Senate's version calling on the federal government to find ways to cut U.S. oil demand or up fuel mileage standards on new SUVs and other large vehicles. And while the final bill does not include a controversial provision to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, Congress hopes to do this separately through passage of its budget bill later in the year.
The new bill does propose more than $11 billion in tax breaks and incentives to boost wind and solar power initiatives over the next decade and bans oil drilling altogether in the Midwest's ecologically-sensitive Great Lakes. Not surprisingly, it appeases farm state politicians by calling on fuel producers to double the amount of ethanol required in gasoline by 2012. Lastly, in order to save consumers money on utility bills, the bill proposes extending daylight-savings-time by four weeks across the country beginning in 2007.
The Bush administration has been pushing for omnibus energy legislation since 2001, when it submitted its first energy plan to Congress. Various versions of the bill have failed in the intervening years. But with strong majorities in both the House and Senate, Republican lawmakers are seizing the day to finally give the president a bill.