New Energy Policy on the Horizon

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FOR the first time in more than a decade, the nation is well on its way to establishing an energy policy that will change the way it produces, consumes and conserves energy.

A House panel has approved its long-awaited version of energy legislation that attempts to dampen the United States appetite for foreign oil by promoting energy efficiency and conservation and encouraging the use of plentiful natural gas.

Not since the 1979 Iranian revolution that pushed oil prices as high as $35 to $40 a barrel has the United States taken such dramatic steps to boost its energy security.

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"This is the most major thing to happen in energy policy since the Carter administration," said Carol Werner of the Environment and Energy Study Institute.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee last week approved the bill 42 to 1. The House is expected to pass the measure when it goes to the floor for a vote in May.

The action virtually ensures that Congress will pass energy legislation by the end of the year. The Senate approved its version in February by a vote of 94 to 4.

The measures establish, for the first time, efficiency standards for a wide range of products including lamps, motors, and heating and cooling equipment for commercial buildings.

They toughen standards for government buildings and promote renewable energy such as hydropower and solar energy.

What the bills fail to do is promote domestic production, much to the chagrin of the US oil industry. Neither bill gives oil companies the go-ahead to drill in the 1.5 million-acre coastal plain of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which could be America's last giant undeveloped oil field and which was a major part of President Bush's National Energy Strategy.

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