Compromise reached on energy bill

Sweeping measure faces some critics in Congress

July 27, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - Congressional negotiators completed work yesterday on a sweeping overhaul of energy policy that would provide billions of dollars in tax breaks to promote domestic production of oil, coal, natural gas and nuclear energy, as well as conservation efforts.

The bill would extend daylight-saving time, nearly double the amount of ethanol that must be added to the nation's gasoline supply, authorize a survey of offshore oil and gas resources and give federal regulators final say over the location of liquefied natural gas terminals.

The measure, long sought by President Bush, is expected to pass the House and Senate later this week.

Still, heated debate is likely on many of its elements, with critics finding fault with what's in the bill - and what's not.

They complained that it doesn't do enough to encourage conservation, gives tax breaks and subsidies to profitable oil and gas companies and includes measures that would roll back environmental protections to promote drilling.

Even some of the measure's supporters acknowledged that it might not significantly reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Bush has pushed for an energy bill since 2001, but the measure gained momentum this year after gasoline prices hit a record high.

And its chances of passage improved earlier this week after House Republican leaders dropped a provision that would have shielded from lawsuits producers of MTBE - a gasoline additive that has contaminated waters supplies in states including Maryland and California.

The bill deals with just about every facet of energy, from promoting more production from traditional fossil fuels to exploring energy from new sources. It also reflects lawmakers' parochial interests.

Even as their session stretched past 2 a.m. yesterday, negotiators were adding items to the bill, such as a provision that would authorize $9 million for a federal program to convert Hawaiian-grown sugar to ethanol fuel.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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