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Senate Prepares to Hash Out Energy Bill Issues

A simmering debate that got under way last week in the Senate over new energy legislation is bound to hit a full boil this week. The bill's most contentious issues remain unresolved. They include gas mileage standards, renewable fuels, and price gouging.

Majority Leader Harry Reid likes to call this new Senate energy bill bipartisan — after all, three committees approved sections of it with votes from both parties.

Still, Reid can't resist comparing it to the last energy bill enacted two years ago that was drafted by the White House and had billions of dollars in tax breaks for oil companies.

"Our legislation would increase production of renewables," Reid said. "We do not believe in the president's theory, the Republicans' theory: drill, drill, drill, more of the same. It reminds me of Iraq."

Indeed, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's biggest complaint about the new energy bill is that it does nothing to boost domestic oil production.

"Gas prices have escalated significantly since the new majority's taken over," McConnell said. "We had looked forward to this debate as an opportunity to do something real about our energy problems in this country, and so far, I'd have to say, we haven't made much progress."

An amendment McConnell backed allowing oil refineries on federal lands and Indian reservations was rejected, mainly by Democrats.

Republicans have not allowed the Energy Committee's Democratic chair, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, to hold a vote on another amendment which he considers central to the energy bill. It provides for a Renewable Portfolio Standard, which would force utilities to use more energy from wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, ocean tides, and landfill gas.

Senate Democrats hope to have an energy bill that could come up for a vote by late in the week.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.