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Republicans block global warming in US energy bill

Date: 07-Oct-02
Country: USA
Author: Charles Abbott

With time running out for this session of Congress, negotiators from the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have failed to settle any of the energy bill's major issues. Republicans and Democrats clashed over allowing drilling in an Alaskan wildlife refuge, the extent of reforms for U.S. electricity markets, and how quickly to boost production of ethanol-mixed gasoline.

But Rep. Billy Tauzin, a Louisiana Republican leading the talks, was not yet ready to give up.

Private discussions were expected through the weekend, Tauzin said, and he expected "by Tuesday to be in a position to vote" on major issues.

Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman said, "We're continuing to have meetings."

A major goal of the Republican-run House, and of President (George W.) Bush, was opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, to oil and gas exploration. The Democratic-run Senate has refused to consider ANWR drilling.

Last week, House negotiators were successful in keeping out a Senate plan for companies to report heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions that are linked to global warming, rejecting the Senate language, 13-2.

"I can assure you, it is not a dead issue from the perspective of the Senate," responded Bingaman, a New Mexico Democrat.

House and Senate negotiators have to agree before an issue can be included in a compromise bill.

"We want to have a bill, but it has to be a bill that's good energy policy," said Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican and leading House negotiator.

Barton earlier suggested the energy bill should be scrapped if the Senate would not compromise on ANWR, located in northern Alaska.

Bush and his Republican allies contend access to the oil is needed more than ever because of potential U.S. military strikes against Iraq.

ANWR holds a potential 16 billion barrels of oil - equal to the amount of crude oil the United States imports from foreign countries for five years. The refuge is also home to polar bears, caribou and other wildlife, which has turned it into a rallying point for environmental opposition.

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