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Some Holes in the Dems’ Energy Bill

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday approved an energy bill designed to straddle the partisan chasm between Democrats intent on tackling global warming and Republicans pushing to open more coastal waters to petroleum drilling.

The resulting measure requires electric utilities to generate 15 percent of their power with renewable sources by 2021, aims to improve the energy efficiency of newly constructed buildings and provides funds to bolster carbon-capture technologies. But environmentalists and some Democrats weren’t at all impressed, for numerous reasons. Here are a few: (1) The bill permits new oil and gas drilling beginning 45 miles from coastlines, particularly in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. (2) It allows exemptions to the 15-percent renewables target that would cut sharply into that requirement. (3) It promotes construction of new power lines, which could encourage continued reliance on coal-burning electric facilities. And (4) it would weaken a current law that prohibits the federal government from buying high-carbon fuels like the oil sucked from Canada’s tar sands.

“Instead of promoting a transition to clean energy, the Democratic senators on this committee crafted a plan that could have come from the oil barons in the Bush administration,” Friends of the Earth President Brent Blackwelder said in a statement. “Passage of legislation like this would be a clear sign that Congress does not take global warming seriously.”

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), a vocal opponent of the offshore drilling provision, has vowed to filibuster the legislation if it hits the floor. At the rate that the Senate’s moving this year legislatively, he might not have to go through the trouble.

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