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The U.S. Congress last passed a major energy law in 2007, but the provisions of that law do not do much to address today's most pressing issues, including high oil prices, greenhouse gas emissions, and surging energy demand in countries such as China and India.

A growing urgency is becoming apparent in Washington as lawmakers introduce new legislation to address energy policy  - where energy comes from, how much it costs, how many jobs it generates, and whether it is central to the health of the economy. A desire to address fossil fuel pollution that contributes to global warming is also gaining traction.

Democrats and Republicans who work on energy policy say they are optimistic about prospects for a number of single-issue energy bills in the coming months as Congress begins to tackle high profile legislation. The U. S. House of Representatives has started a bipartisan caucus aimed at passing energy efficiency legislation - bills that would require buildings that provide the same amount of light and heat with less fuel, for example.

As previously reported on HAI's RotorNews, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu (D) have joined together to introduce a bill that would expand offshore drilling, give coastal states a taste of the profit, and require some of the money to go toward development of renewable energy. The bill is drawing a mix of supporters and is being taken seriously by House and Senate leadership.

Senior leaders from both political parties on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are working collaboratively on a controversial piece of energy policy to address the renewable fuels standard. There is growing opposition to the provisions of a 2005 law mandating that oil refiners blend an increasing share of plant-based ethanol into the nation's gasoline mix. Oil companies complain it raises their costs, and the use of corn to produce ethanol has also contributed to rising food prices in the wake of last year's drought. Meanwhile, the technology to produce ethanol affordably from non-food crops still is not commercialized.

In January, House Republicans brought to the floor a bill to speed construction of small hydropower plants in the Pacific Northwest. The bill was sponsored by Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington and signaled that the GOP was ready to work with Democrats on at least some form of renewable energy legislation. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden (D) has now introduced a companion measure in the Senate, and members of both parties in both chambers are optimistic about its prospects.

Posted in: Washington News
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