Democrats in the Senate have produced a new version of a broad energy bill, but there are no signs of compromise on the issue that most divides them from Republicans, drilling for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Republicans are pushing to have ANWR opened to oil and gas exploration, but Democrats new bill, introduced Dec. 5, continues the drilling ban there. Republicans also have been lobbying for a vote on energy legislation by the end of the year. Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) says he's committed to bringing up the bill on the Senate floor, but not until early next year.

(Photo by the Office of Sen. Thomas Daschle)
Though the Democrats' bill has no change on ANWR, it does provide incentives aimed at helping to launch a new gas pipeline from Alaska to the lower 48 states. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), the new bill's prime sponsor, also argues that the Democrats' proposal is stronger on renewable energy than the GOP plan. The Democrats' version would require that 10% of U.S. energy be produced from renewables by 2020 and 7.5% of energy purchased by the federal government come from renewables by 2010. It also would boost use of alternative motor fuels, mainly ethanol, to 5 billion gallons per year in 2012.

The bill doesn't give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission eminent domain power for siting transmission facilities. It also is silent on fuel economy standards for vehicles. That issue is still being debated in the commerce committee.

The measure does mandate new energy-efficiency standards for new federal buildings.

The leader of Senate Republicans' energy push, Frank Murkowski of Alaska, said he is "absolutely dismayed at the partisanship that has gone in to putting this [Democratic] bill together." He says he sees little difference between the Democrats' new bill and the version they introduced early this year, except that the new proposal lacks a fuel-economy provision.