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Gulf Oil Spill Not a Great Motivator for Energy Legislation

Hoping to catch a bit of lightning in a bottle, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, has been pulling together various members of his caucus to try to get them on the same page on an energy bill.

But at the moment, not even the oil spill in the Gulf is proving an effective catalyst for that Herculean task.  Members, from disparate regions of the country with home state concerns (particularly those from coal states and others that depend on oil and gas drilling), are far from agreement on what to do to solve the nation's growing energy problem.

Most want to "free the U.S. of its dependence on foreign oil," and most want to "do something about the catastrophe in the Gulf," but that's about where the consensus ends.

Reid convened a special meeting of his Caucus Thursday to try to hammer out a way forward, but about the only thing that happened was a lot of talking about a lot of different bills, according to attendees.

After the meeting, Reid, surrounded by the authors of competing bills, told reporters that he would bring his members together next week for a Q&A session.

The leader said merely that today's sessions was "a full, frank discussion," and said he would be "doing his very best" to bring a bill to the floor by July.

No one would touch the exceedingly touchy topic of pricing carbon. Reid merely gave voice to the obvious - that there are wide-ranging views on what to do, from "lots of pricing" to none.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA, who gave a video presentation to her colleagues of her bipartisan bill (the CLEAR Act) with Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, which would give a dividend related to energy conservation, told reporters, "I think we have a lot of work to do," but the senator added, "No one should underestimate the amount of anxiety and concern about what's going on in the Gulf."

Remaining competitive in renewable energy against China and Europe was also a central theme of the Reid news conference, along with conerns about the Gulf, but the only consensus that appears to have emerged is to meet next week to keep talking.