The outlook for energy legislation in the House is fuzzy. Just before the start of the July 4 break, Democratic leaders said they intend to assemble a package of energy bills that aim to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. But what the package will look like and when it might move to the House floor remain unclear.

By contrast, the Senate on June 21 approved a single, multipronged energy bill that includes provisions setting a more aggressive target for ethanol fuel use and increasing the federal vehicle fuel-economy standard. Neither of those items is ready for House floor action in the immediate future.

In unveiling the House Democrats' plan on June 28, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the legislation stimulates "new technologies and innovation and invests in cutting-edge research, supports small business, creates energy solutions and...good, 'green' jobs."

Eleven House committees are responsible for energy-related areas, and some of those panels have cleared bills that can go to the floor. But one key player, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.), says that his panel won't take up some of the most important issues until September, including vehicle fuel-economy standards and items related to coal and nuclear energy.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) says "there will be a comprehensive package, but not necessarily just one big bill."

The House Democrats' plan doesnt mesh neatly with the Senate's comprehensive bill, which boosts the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirement by 10 miles per gallon, to 35 mpg by 2020 and sharply increases the standard for fuels derived from ethanol. Neither of those important items is ready for immediate House floor action.

On the other hand, the House does have a tax bill ready for the floor. That measure, approved June 20 by the Ways and Means Committee, would provide $16.1 billion in tax breaks aimed at energy conservation and efficiency. But the Senate defeated an attempt to attach $31 billion in tax breaks to its extensive energy measure.