CONGRESS has adjourned for its traditional five-week August break without passing legislation to increase domestic energy production. The chemical industry, however, is hopeful that two new proposals could provide the basis for a compromise agreement when lawmakers return to Capitol Hill after Labor Day.
Members of the two political parties have been at loggerheads in recent months over how to address sky-high prices for oil and natural gas. But recent actions in both the House and the Senate are encouraging signs that a solution to the nation's energy crisis may be in sight, according to the American Chemistry Council (ACC), an industry group that represents major U.S. chemical manufacturers.
In a bid to break the impasse, a bipartisan group of 10 senators introduced a bill on Aug. 1 that would increase offshore drilling, encourage conservation, and make major investments in renewable energy and alternative fuels.
The drilling portion of the New Energy Reform Act of 2008 would open up areas of the eastern Gulf of Mexico and federal waters off the coasts of Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia, if the states allow it. No drilling would be permitted within 50 miles of the states' coastlines.
"Any change in production would send a powerful signal to markets" and help ease oil and natural gas prices, says Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), a cosponsor of the bill and a member of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee.
ACC President Jack N. Gerard says the bill is "a welcome sign that the Senate is recognizing the importance of greater access to drilling in the outer continental shelf as part of a comprehensive U.S. energy policy."
"This multifaceted bill includes the building blocks of sound energy policy—efficiency, conservation, diversity, and expanded access to domestic energy supplies," Gerard says. "We strongly encourage House members to review it carefully and discuss it with their constituents during the August recess."