Congressional passage of President Bush’s energy initiatives, as well as expanded free trade authority, will have a “great bearing” on the nation’s economy this year and beyond, Vice President Dick Cheney said in a speech Monday to the Southern Governors’ Association (SGA).

He stressed the need for a balanced approach toward energy. President Bush “and I do not accept the false choice between more energy and a clean environment. It is possible to do both. This is one of the primary themes of our energy policy that…we’re now trying to get passed through the Congress,” Cheney told the SGA’s annual meeting in Lexington, KY.

The House passed an energy bill that incorporated many of Bush’s initiatives last month, while the Senate is expected to take up its energy measure during the fall session.

From a production angle, the president’s energy policy calls for “everything from clean-coal technology to alternative energy supplies,” said Cheney, adding that it also “includes highly effective new methods that allow much oil [and natural gas] production to go literally unnoticed and habitat to be undisturbed.”

He cited the Sabine Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana as an example of production and the environment co-existing. There, Cheney said “more than 100 oil and gas wells operate in complete harmony with land and the wildlife.”

Both Cheney and Bush support oil and gas drilling in the coastal region of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska, but the move is widely opposed by environmentalists and a number of U.S. lawmakers. While the House energy bill supports opening ANWR to drilling, the issue is not expected to be part of the Senate’s energy legislation.

But Cheney, who wields considerable clout on Capitol Hill, does not intend to back down on the issue. “This kind of balanced approach is essential if we are to meet the country’s energy needs down the road,” he said. “Every energy step we take toward wiser use of energy and more diverse supplies here at home will make us that much less dependent on oversea suppliers and less vulnerable to supply shocks imposed on us from abroad.”

Cheney chaired the Cabinet-level task force that developed the Bush administration’s national energy policy, which was released last spring.

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