Senate Panel Approves Energy Bill


A Senate committee on Wednesday approved an energy bill that would open large tracts of the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling and provide federal loan guarantees for a gas pipeline project in Alaska.

The measure, which cleared the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on a 15-to-8 vote, would also require utilities to produce up to 15 percent of electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar power by 2021. That standard is somewhat weaker than one in a House energy and climate change bill that is headed for a floor vote as early as next week.

The Senate bill is a compromise between Democratic members seeking to reduce energy use and emissions linked to global warming and Republican members intent on increasing production of oil, gas and nuclear power. Republicans and Democrats who supported the bill said they hoped to strengthen it, each side to its own advantage, when it reaches the floor.

The measure does not include any mandatory reductions in emissions of heat-trapping gases, the focus of separate legislation being considered by another Senate committee.

The energy bill includes money for clean energy technologies and training for workers in new energy-related industries. It calls for expansion of the nation’s stockpiles of petroleum reserves to deal with sudden shortages or steep price increases. It provides federal incentives for projects to capture and store carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, and encourages a solution to the problem of storing nuclear waste.