Published August 01, 2008
WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of 10 senators offered an energy plan Friday aimed at producing more domestic oil via offshore drilling, reducing energy prices, and aiding the troubled economy.
The plan also would require automobiles to be more fuel efficient and would provide research money for improved batteries to move away from petroleum-products in cars: the plan calls for 85 percent of vehicles to run on non-petroleum-based fuel in 20 years.
Senators said the bill also would promote more renewable energy sources and nuclear energy, as well as carbon capture techniques to reduce greenhouse gas production through tax and other incentives.
"This bill would do more to lower gas prices at the pump" than any other plan, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference. "Any change in production would send a powerful signal to markets" that would ease back on speculation that primarily Democrats have blamed as one reason for sky-high oil prices.
The plan will not, however, include a proposal pushed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid specifically targeting the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and oil speculation. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said it was too controversial and unlikely to pass.
Other senators touted the plan's affordability to U.S. taxpayers and its efforts to provide energy in environmentally friendly ways. The plan is estimated to cost $85 billion, but would be offset with "loophole closers and other revenues," including money from the new leases and from closing a oil industry manufacturing tax credit.
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said the oil drilling portion of the plan would open up areas of the eastern Gulf of Mexico as well as areas off the eastern United States. He said the plan calls for a 50-mile buffer zone. Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia could opt in to oil leasing off their shores.
The plan is not expected to be acted on before Congress takes is August break, scheduled to begin next weekend.
Other members of the group include Sens. John Thune, R-S.D.; Ben Nelson, D-Neb.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Mark Pryor, D-Ark.; Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.; Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.; and Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
Reid issued a statement ahead of the news conference, offering mild support:
"This proposal includes some very good ideas to address our country’s many energy-related challenges, and while I do not agree with every part of it, I very much appreciate the bipartisan spirit in which it was constructed. ...
"I am hopeful this plan can begin to break the current legislative stalemate on the Senate floor. The American people deserve a real debate with productive Senate action on bipartisan proposals to help make energy more abundant, secure and affordable for America’s families and businesses."
FOX News' Mike Majchrowitz contributed to this report.