By the OGJ Online Staff
WASHINGTON, DC, Oct. 16 -- The American Petroleum Institute said Tuesday its members are still pushing Congress to pass a comprehensive energy bill this year although political realities may make that a difficult goal.
"We're not prepared to say we're giving up," said API Pres. Red Cavaney. However, he said getting the kind of legislation API wants through the Democratic-controlled Senate may be an uphill battle.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) last week said any legislation that includes a provision to lease a portion of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge could mean senators would filibuster the energy bill indefinitely.
Alternatively, Senate Democratic leaders have offered a floor vote on just the ANWR issue. But lobbyists say a slim majority of senators oppose leasing, and the best chance of passage is if the measure is included in other pending legislation.
Meanwhile, there is growing evidence that most Americans want ANWR open for drilling, Cavaney said.
"The American public 'gets it' when it comes to energy security," Cavaney said.
He said public support is growing not just for ANWR but to open other public lands now off limits to exploration and development. And that support will manifest itself later on Capitol Hill, he predicted.
Even state opposition to offshore drilling evident this past spring during the congressional budget process may change now that Americans recognize the need to expand domestic production, he said. The House recently dropped its earlier objections to Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 181, and state concerns may also change, Cavaney said.
"It could take 10 years, but it's not insurmountable," he said.
The API president spoke following a videoconference held in lieu of the annual meeting API had planned for this week in Pasadena, Calif. API members will vote soon for a new chairman, who will take office in January, Cavaney said.