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Senate Dems to Take Their Time on Energy Issues

Senate leaders Thursday signaled that energy will be a priority item for the chamber, but they will move more deliberatively on the issue than House Democrats, who plan to vote on an energy package Jan. 18.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced a "placeholder" measure, a major environmental security and global-warming bill (S. 6), to emphasize the important role that energy will have in the 110th Congress.

Reid's action was a "symbolic" gesture, and "substantive [energy] legislation will follow in a few months," said Bill Wicker, a spokesman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the new chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and co-sponsor of the bill.

Reid would like to see Senate committee action on an energy bill begin after the February recess and run through the Easter break, Wicker told NGI.

"I'm not sure there will be a whole lot for oil and gas" in the Senate legislation, he noted. "I think the trend line is going in the opposite direction" towards renewable and alternative energy.

The Senate legislation is expected to focus on developing alternative fuels; new technologies for cars and trucks; reducing exposure to global warming; expanding the use of secure, efficient and environmentally friendly energy supplies and technologies; reducing the burdens on consumers of rising energy prices; and eliminating tax giveaways and preventing energy price gouging and manipulation.

"All of this is a tall order for Congress," said Bingaman on the Senate floor Thursday. "I would predict that instead of seeing just one big energy bill, we will be addressing these issues through multiple bills that move through the Senate."

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