GOP Senate bill would improve energy market regulation

Nick Snow
Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, June 26 -- US Senate Republicans introduced legislation that they said would balance developing domestic fossil fuel sources with promoting alternatives and improve energy commodity market regulation.

The bill, which has 43 cosponsors, grew from efforts by Senate Republicans to intensify the energy debate and provide a vehicle for bipartisan action to address high gasoline prices, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said.

"It uses a three-pronged approach (conservation, innovation for newer technologies, and expanded exploration of our domestic resources) to solve America's energy crisis. It also would create thousands of jobs and help get prices down at the gas pump," he maintained.

Democrats in the House as well as the Senate oppose expanding oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf or authorizing prompt development of regulations for leasing federal onshore acreage for oil shale development. Two provisions in McConnell's bill address these issues by repealing an oil shale moratorium that Democrats inserted into the Department of the Interior's fiscal 2008 budget and by allowing coastal state governors to petition for OCS leasing at least 50 miles offshore with concurrence from their state legislatures.

The bill also would increase research and development support for producing electric cars and trucks and take several actions to improve US regulation of energy commodity markets. Specifically, it would increase funding for US Commodity Futures Trading Commission operations and staffing, codify CFTC actions on position limits and transparency limits for foreign exchanges and require the CFTC to gather information on index traders and swaps dealers.

"We must expand our domestic energy production and limit the hold Middle Eastern nations have on our economy," McConnell said. "The United States is the third-largest producer of oil in the world after the Saudis and the Russians. While we must work now to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, if we truly want to achieve energy independence America must be allowed to take advantage of the vast energy resources we have right at home."

The bill represents the latest effort to reduce US dependence on foreign oil by addressing fundamental supply and demand problems, according to Pete V. Domenici (R-NM), the Energy and Natural Resources Committee's ranking minority member.

"While the majority has come up with excuse after excuse for opposing more production, to me the path forward should be clear. Passing a bill like this will send a strong message to the world's oil markets and the unfriendly nations we buy oil from that America has had enough. I hope that the Democrats will reconsider their widespread opposition to increased domestic production," he said.

The House Western Caucus, led by Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah), also planned to introduce an energy bill on June 26.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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