The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are split over two rival bills aimed at establishing a long-term national energy policy.
The House bill, fashioned largely by Republicans and passed last August. The Washington Post said that the House bill provides some $33.5 billion worth of tax breaks largely to promote more oil exploration and drilling, including federal royalty relief for deep water exploration and opening 2,000 acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil production.
The Senate bill, sponsored largely by Democrats and moderate Republicans, comes up for debate this week. The Post says the Senate bill offers $16 billion in tax breaks to promote both oil conservation and production efforts. The bill also seeks to raise the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for light trucks from 20.7 miles per gallon to 35 mpg by 2013 and 36 mpg by 2016, and also seeks to require 10% of all the electricity generated in the U.S. to come from renewable energy sources by 2020.
President George W. Bush has made energy security one of his administration's top priorities in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks of last year and favors the House bill. The President has said that opening ANWR to oil exploration and drilling is a critical element to the security of the nation's energy supply.
Despite the differences in the two bills, business executives are warning that something must be done soon to reduce the U.S.'s dependence on foreign oil imports.
"Assurance of an energy supply is quite different from national defense, but it has evolved into a function in which government must play a role," Curtis D. Burton, president of the marine division of Houston-based energy provider Grant Prideco, an energy provider based in Houston, TX, told Energy Houston.
Although energy prices are down temporarily, Prideco warns that threats from abroad require that industry and government work together to protect America's energy security, noting that America's dependence on foreign hydrocarbons is at an all-time high of 54%.
"No one in the energy sector wants the government involved with day-to-day operations," Burton added. "But a balanced national energy policy is the first step toward a more sane approach to America's energy picture."