- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2001

President Bushs energy policy is expected to hit a brick wall in the Senate when Democrats take over key committees.
"This is going to be a tough battle, and it wont be fought fair," said Tripp Baird, Senate liaison for the Heritage Foundation and former Senate floor staffer to Majority Leader Trent Lott.
Opponents of key aspects of Mr. Bushs energy plan include Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont, who defected from the Republican Party to become an independent on May 24, giving control of the Senate to Democrats.
Mr. Jeffords wants to chair the Environment and Public Works Committee, which has oversight over non-military nuclear power and wildlife refuges, including the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
Mr. Bush says he wants to open the refuge to drilling for oil, and his energy plan also calls for renewing and expanding nuclear facilities to generate electricity at "a reasonable cost, without pumping a gram of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere."
In making his announcement to leave the Republicans, Mr. Jeffords said he sees "more and more instances where I will disagree with the President on very fundamental issues," including "energy and the environment."
"Anything Bush wants to do, Jeffords will do the opposite," Mr. Baird said.
Mr. Baird said the debate over increasing nuclear energy will turn into a "bloodbath."
Environmental groups are pleased with Mr. Jeffords defection and are confident the issue of drilling in ANWR is dead.
"There will be no drilling in ANWR," said Mark Helm, spokesman for Friends of the Earth.
"Jeffords has a long career of making smart votes and educating himself about the environment. This guy has proven himself to be a friend of the Earth, and it is good that he would head up this committee," Mr. Helm said.
Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, is next in line to chair the Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations and is already calling for an investigation into soaring gasoline prices at the pumps.
Democrats are opposed to increasing energy supplies and say price gouging by "big oil" companies is responsible for the nations rising energy costs.
"We hear various explanations as to why we have again suffered a dramatic increase in gas prices, but so far the explanations havent been satisfactory," Mr. Levin said in a statement.
Mr. Levin has asked the General Accounting Office to review the effects of oil company mergers on gas prices, despite a Federal Trade Commission report issued March 29 that concluded mergers had no effects on last summers gas spike.
A Congressional Research Service report said last years increase was due to the low supply of crude oil and pipeline problems.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico Democrat, is the incoming chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, but outgoing Chairman Sen. Frank H. Murkowski, Alaska Republican, said he is confident they can work across party lines.
"Both of us believe that an energy policy is a priority and that action should be taken at the earliest possible time," Mr. Murkowski said in a statement.
"If you look at our different versions of an energy bill, you can find far more in common than you can find differences," said Mr. Murkowski.
Mr. Bingaman, however, criticized Mr. Bushs plan as having no short-term solutions. He has suggested he would support price caps on wholesale electricity in California to ease the states energy crunch, an idea opposed by the White House and congressional Republicans.
Mr. Bingamans energy bill calls for a mix of fuels and technologies and increased efficiency. Mr. Bingaman does agree with Republicans that domestic oil and gas production should be encouraged.


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