- The Washington Times - Monday, July 30, 2001

The House this week could take up legislation that plays off the key themes of President Bush's proposed national energy policy.
While many of the components are the same, the House has gone well beyond the White House's proposal on several fronts.
House Republican leaders plan to combine four separate bills into one piece of legislation authorizing billions of dollars more in research, stiffer conservation standards and tens of billions of dollars more in energy-related tax breaks.
Mr. Bush's plan to open the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas exploration survived House committee consideration, but is expected to die under intense debate on the House floor.
"We have been working with Congress on this and are very pleased to see so many of the things he proposed and the essence of what he wanted incorporated," said Claire Buchan, spokeswoman for the White House. Mr. Bush has commended the House for its work.
Those who have helped write the bill predict it will be pared down in final negotiations with the Senate, particularly in light of fading surplus projections.
The Senate has not begun its work on energy policy, but Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico Democrat, could begin marking up a bill next week.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, however, said the Senate will not pass a tax title as expansive as the one being considered in the House. Because the budget sits precariously close to dipping into the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, Mr. Baucus said, tax cuts must be offset by revenue-raising provisions, and that substantially limits the bill's size.
The White House has encouraged increasing the appropriation for energy research by $200 million, but the House bill will authorize far more.
In fiscal 2002 alone, the bill would authorize for research $600 million for energy conservation, $157 million for global climate change, $475 million for renewable energy, $372 million for coal technology, $238 million for oil and gas development, $320 million for a magnetic fusion burning plasma experiment and $277 million for the Spallation Neutron Source project.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James M. Jeffords, Vermont independent, said he intends to claim partial jurisdiction over the measure and to push stiffer conservation standards than those envisioned by the White House.
The House bill imposes stricter fuel-efficiency standards on light trucks and sport utility vehicles, bucking the White House's stance on that conservation issue, but tracks the administration's plan in a few key areas.
On the tax front, the House Ways and Means Committee accepted Mr. Bush's plan to create and expand several incentives, including a tax credit for energy produced from combined heat and power systems. Americans buying alternative-fuel vehicles, such as hybrid vehicles fueled by both gasoline and electricity or fuel-cell vehicles, would receive substantial tax credits.
Mr. Bush and the House also would extend the tax credit of 1.7 cents per kilowatt for electricity produced from wind and other alternative sources.
Both also would create a 15 percent tax credit for individuals who purchase photovoltaic equipment or solar water-heating equipment for their residences.
The House didn't adopt the president's proposal to extend the excise-tax exemption for gasohol, or his plan to provide tax credits for energy produced from landfill gas.
But the House Ways and Means Committee went well beyond the president's proposal.
It would create a new business tax credit for the construction of new and retrofitted energy-efficient homes. Businesses would be able to write off the costs of oil and natural-gas pipelines faster under the House bill. Electric utilities would benefit from nearly $5 billion in tax breaks over the next decade.
Oil and gas companies would see another $8 billion in tax breaks aimed at production. For example, they would receive tax credits for oil and gas produced from marginal wells. They also would be allowed to use production credits to reduce their alternative minimum tax.
On the production side, the House would require government officials to provide in greater detail their reasons for denying oil and gas leases. Oil companies would be given greater flexibility in paying federal royalties in oil rather than cash.

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