Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has signaled that a vote on energy legislation -- largely focused on oil spill safety, natural gas vehicles, home energy retrofits and possibly a renewable electricity standard (RES) -- will be delayed until after the November elections, but energy officials don't expect to see an energy bill out of Congress this year and maybe not even next year.

There's a "pretty small probability" of any kind of energy legislation being voted on and passed out of Congress after the elections, said Martin Edwards, vice president of legislative affairs for the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America.

"The post-lame duck session will be pretty limited in scope...The [focus] is going to be on jobs and the economy. Energy will be secondary," he said. "The electorate cares a lot less about environmental [and energy] policy and more about jobs, the economy and getting government spending under control," Edwards told NGI.

He even doubts whether an energy bill will make it out of Congress in 2011.

"Reid is in a very close reelection campaign, and his defeat would significantly disrupt efforts to reach consensus on major legislation in a 'lame duck' session," said analysts for FBR Capital Markets Wednesday.

Potentially "departing senators are a wild card. Holding an RES vote after the election significantly increases the uncertainty, as a number of senators will no longer be constrained by home-state electoral pressures. At least eight Republicans are leaving the Senate at the end of the year," the FBR analysts said. The most notable of the existing senators is Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which passed the energy bill last year that included a 15% RES by 2021 (see Daily GPI, June 18, 2009).

Murkowski conceded Alaska's Republican primary to Tea Party-backed candidate Joe Miller last Tuesday (see Daily GPI, Sept. 2). The surprise upset was attributed to the fact that Miller, a conservative, was endorsed by 2008 vice president contender, former Alaska governor and Tea Party star Sarah Palin, who has been in a bitter rivalry with the Murkowski family for years.

Other departing senators who have expressed concern for climate change or support for RES are Sens. George LeMieux (R-FL), Judd Gregg (R-NH), George Voinovich (R-OH) and Sam Brownback (R-KS).

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