Congress Set to Send Energy Bill to Bush Now that House and Senate conferees have ironed out their differences, an energy bill -- which President Bush has long sought -- is close to reality.
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Congress Set to Send Energy Bill to Bush

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Congress Set to Send Energy Bill to Bush

Congress Set to Send Energy Bill to Bush

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

By the end of the week Congress is expected to act on a wide-ranging energy bill. Among other things, it would provide more than $11 billion in tax incentives for energy exploration, it would double ethanol production, and it would extend daylight-saving time. Critics say it would do next to nothing to promote energy conservation or to lower energy prices. From the Capitol, NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR reporting:

The massive energy bill, a longtime goal of the Bush administration, contains a little bit of something for everyone, says House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, and that should make everyone happy.

Representative JOE BARTON (Republican, Texas; Chairman, Energy and Commerce Committee): Regardless of your political position, regardless of your geographic location in this country, this is a good bill for you. It's a good bill for America.

NAYLOR: Here's a little bit of what the bill does. It sets reliability standards for electric utility power grids in an effort to prevent blackouts like the one two summers ago. It has financial incentives for new nuclear power plant construction. It gives tax credits to oil companies for extracting oil from shale and deep-water wells. And it provides loan guarantees for plants that burn so-called clean coal and tax credits for buyers of hybrid cars. In fact, says Chairman Barton, those who don't like this bill are outside the mainstream of America.

Rep. BARTON: The main opposition to the bill is going to be from the extreme left, which, I guess, wants us to go back to rubbing two sticks together to create fire. And you'll just have to ask them why they're so anti-American economic growth and opportunity.

NAYLOR: But critics say they're hardly anti-American for opposing things such as tax breaks for energy companies now making record profits. Calling the energy bill a waste of energy, Karen Wayland of the Natural Resources Defense Council points out the measure also gives oil companies special exemptions from clean air and water laws.

Ms. KAREN WAYLAND (Natural Resources Defense Council): The oil and gas industry would get an exemption from the Clean Water Act for how it manages storm water on its construction sites. That exemption would only be for the oil and gas industry, and every other industry in this country would have to comply with the Clean Water Act.

NAYLOR: Nor does the bill address environmental concerns, such as global climate change, or require increased gas mileage in cars and trucks. But Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, the senior Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee, says it's the best bill Democrats can get from this Congress.

Senator JEFF BINGAMAN (Democrat, New Mexico): I think that given the makeup of Congress, given the positions of the administration, this is as good a bill as we can produce. And so there are some who say, `Well, we shouldn't produce anything.' That's not my view.

NAYLOR: One other provision this bill does not contain: It does not open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. But lawmakers are expected to attach that to another measure this fall. Brian Naylor, NPR News, the Capitol.

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