UPDATE:As Parties Fight,Group Offers Bipartisan Energy Package
(Updates with lawmaker, industry comments)
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
The proposal, which the politicians expect could be brought to the floor in September, appeals to both parties by taxing Big Oil and funneling those funds into alternative and renewable fuels - but opens up major portions of the Outer Continental Shelf currently closed to exploration.
Party leaders may have difficulty whipping members into line to support their presidential candidates' policy positions after lawmakers come back from the August recess, where they'll likely receive an earful from voters angry at Congress for not passing any legislation to cut record oil prices.
"Nothing gets done in this body without 60 votes, and you don't get 60 votes
without a true bi-partisan effort," said Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., who along with
"It hopefully does break down some of the barriers around here," said Sen.
Conrad said a number of Senators had already expressed interest in the proposal.
The campaign office for presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., posted a statement that stopped short of an endorsement but praised the proposal as "a good faith effort" and "an important step in the process of reducing our dangerous dependence on foreign oil." Although Obama said he remained " skeptical" that new offshore drilling will bring down gas prices in the short term, his comments opened the door toward working with the group, saying he welcomed "the establishment of a process that will allow us to make future drilling decisions based on science and fact."
While Senate Majority Leader
He later told reporters the package stood little chance of passing, indicating the comprehensive energy bill was unlikely to be voted into law in the run-up to November elections.
Specifically, the proposal would open up sections of the OCS 50 miles off the
All of those states except
The proposal would fund a conversion of the nation's petroleum-guzzling
vehicles to 85% non-oil fuel sources such as batteries and alternative fuels
within 20 years, contributing
It also would extend renewable energy and efficiency tax credits through 2012, some of which expire at the end of this year.
To pay for the
Karen Matusic, a spokeswoman for the
It immediately drew the ire of Florida Republican Sen.
In the House, another bipartisan group of legislators has offered a similar proposal and has said they would work with their Senate colleagues to gather support.
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