- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 1, 2002

This week, House and Senate conferees hope to complete final compromises on the first comprehensive energy bill the country has seen in a decade. While the primary negotiators Sens. Frank Murkowski and Jeff Bingaman, Reps. Billy Tauzin and John Dingell are still attempting to reach agreement on a number of issues, ranging from ethanol subsidies to renewable energy, the two most contentious issues have been the Senate's language on climate change and the House-passed proposal to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Mr. Tauzin recently indicated that Republicans might accept a climate change package if Democrats agreed to allow ANWR drilling. The trade would seem to be one worth making, if it allows even a trickle of Alaskan oil in return for largely notional commitments on climate change.

Compromise should not mean total capitulation, especially since Republican concerns about the Senate's language are well-warranted. The carbon registry requirements (currently found in Title XI of the Senate bill), which would compel companies to report their greenhouse gas emissions, are a matter of special concern. While the reportage is voluntary, many fear that a registration could easily become a revocation just as gun registration is the first step to confiscation. Charli Coon, a senior energy policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, recently wrote that this title "is nothing short of a domestic form of the Kyoto Protocol." Similar concerns apply to Title X of the Senate bill, which calls for the White House to develop a National Climate Change Strategy, and to Title XIII, which allocates billions of extra taxpayer dollars for climate change research.

Yet it is worth remembering that Americans are already doing many of these things. The president's Clear Skies Initiative called for an 18 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas intensity and provided for $4.5 billion in spending on climate change.

Besides, America needs the 10.4 billion barrels of crude which are expected to be found in ANWR. Even if we weren't importing nearly 1 million barrels of Iraqi oil each day, our near-60 percent dependence on foreign oil is reason enough to develop domestic energy supplies. If Senate Democrats remain recalcitrant on ANWR, the energy security situation will only become worse America could be importing nearly half of its oil from OPEC by 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Annual Energy Outlook, 2002.

In the final tally, if a trade between climate change titles and ANWR can be found, Republicans will receive something tangible in return for measures subject to further amendment. It has taken almost two years to reach this point of potential compromise, nearly ten years since Congress passed a comprehensive energy bill. That opportunity might not come again for some time, especially if the mid-term elections are not favorable.

If a common-sense compromise can be found between climate change and energy production, a ticklish compromise that will ensure even a trickle of oil from Alaska, Republicans should take it.

We are cautiously pessimistic that such a compromise can be reached.

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