By Sylvie Dale, Tulsa On-Line Editor

April 26, 2002 — The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved (88 to 11) its version of the energy bill, which contains billions of dollars in tax incentives. The long anticipated plan, spurred by President George W. Bush’s energy policy a year ago, seeks to address the nation’s future energy needs.

The Senate bill includes $14bn in tax incentives over ten years, divided between renewable energy and conservation programs and fossil fuel energy producers. (The House version calls for $33bn in tax incentives which lean toward the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries.)

Other highlights in the Senate version include:

o More authority for federal regulation of the wholesale electricity markets and transmission systems;

o Repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA) of 1935, which limits the operations of electricity holding companies;

o A requirement for generators to produce ten per cent of their electricity by 2019 from renewable fuels;

o Federal loan guarantees intended to get private companies interested in building a $20bn pipeline to transport natural gas from Alaska’s North Slope;

o Consumer tax credits for the installation of solar panels, additional insulation or energy-efficient windows, doors, air conditioners and heat pumps;

o A ban on use of the fuel additive MTBE;

o A requirement to use more ethanol in gasoline.

Missing from the Senate version is provision for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an item Republicans have already promised to revive when the Senate and House versions are reconciled.

The legislation contains a series of tax incentives for independent oil and gas producers. The bill also carves out a greater role for national laboratories in their efforts to research and develop new energy technologies. Additionally, it contains provisions that would spur energy development on Indian lands.

“This legislation is the result of six weeks of debate and was approved with overwhelming bipartisan support,” said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “It doesn’t tackle every challenge I was hoping we would address, but it does lay out a plan for meeting the nations future energy needs through a combination of increased production of traditional fuels and increased use of emerging energy sources.”

Democrats said the bill provides a balance between energy production and conservation, plus gives encouragement for end consumers to practice energy conservation, the Associated Press reported.

President Bush said the House and Senate energy bills include the major conservation and environmentally responsible production measures needed to reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign sources of energy.

“I am pleased that the House-Senate Conference Committee will have before it the elements of a comprehensive energy policy,” Bush said.

“The two bills reflect my Administration’s call to provide tax incentives for alternative and renewable fuels and technology; modernize our electricity laws; open a small portion of ANWR to responsible exploration; increase automotive fuel efficiency while protecting American lives and jobs; and ensure continued safe operation of our nuclear facilities.”