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Senate Takes Up Energy Policy

posted on June 15, 2007

Domestic crude oil closed above $67 a barrel Thursday for the first time since September on concerns that the refining industry is not producing enough gasoline to meet summer demand.

That worry, which drove prices at the pump to record levels last month, was exacerbated by a government report that showed refinery utilization fell last week and that gasoline inventories are not growing.

As motorists face near record fuel prices, the U.S. Senate took up an energy bill this week that would raise auto fuel economy standards for the first time in nearly 20 years and make price gouging a federal crime.

Senate Takes Up Energy Policy The battle over an all-encompassing energy policy continued this week. The Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007 is moving through the Senate and, as usual, a flurry of amendments are being tacked on covering everything from off-shore oil drilling to geothermal energy.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska: "Hot water, neated naturally, by the earth, sports zero cost, zero fuel cost."

The seven sections of the measure cover several categories including energy independence, environmental protection, and national security.

No technology is left untouched. There are plans to have automakers increase fuel efficiency of passenger cars to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. This would be coupled with the manufacture of alternatively powered vehicles that go beyond conventional combustion by using batteries and fuel cells.

Also included in the bill, is the Bush administration call for a production mandate of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022. In an attempt to be specific about what this means, farm state lawmakers introduced an amendment mandating the annual production of 1.25 billion gallons of bio-diesel by 2012. The current production level is only 75 million gallons a year.

Among other provisions in the act are guidelines for prosecuting fuel companies caught price gouging or colluding to inflate the cost of a gallon of gas. And still on the table is the controversial measure authorizing the U.S. Government to sue the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC.

Methods of transportation are not the only items covered by the act. Development of clean coal technology for electrical power generation and carbon sequestration also are addressed.

The current bill contains many of the same elements included in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 adopted under a Republican controlled Congress. Only time will tell if the measure will be overburdened with amendments that keep President Bush from signing the 2007 energy policy into law.

Tags: Congress energy policy government news