Senate bill would limit US oil dependence

Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alas.), Energy Committee chairman, said an energy bill will be filed this week to limit US oil import dependence to 50% by 2010. Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) will file the bill, which was drafted by a 10-senator task force that Murkowski headed.

Murkowski disclosed details of the legislation at the annual meeting of the US Energy Association, which coordinates US participation in the World Energy Council and sponsors energy partnership programs with foreign nations.

He said the measure would limit import dependence by increasing domestic energy supplies and conservation. The US Energy Secretary would be required to report annually on the nation�s progress toward meeting the 50% goal. Dependence on foreign petroleum currently is about 56%.

The bill would open more federal lands to exploration, provide royalty relief for exploration in US frontier areas, and allow exploration on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska.

Like a bill the House recently passed, it would reauthorize operation of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), create a home heating oil stockpile in the Northeast US, and provide fiscal relief to keep marginal wells in operation when low prices make them uneconomic to operate.

The legislation would not allow SPR drawdowns unless the Secretary of Defense certifies that a national security emergency justifies them. It also contains provisions for home weatherization tax credits in the Northeast, energy conservation measures, and measures to facilitate more natural gas use.

Murkowski said the bill would be referred to his committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

The senator said the energy committee will begin marking up a retail electricity decontrol bill May 17, and, �Surprisingly enough, there�s quite a bit of agreement on many of the issues.�

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