In a rare disagreement with his oil and gas buddies, President Bush is resisting pressure to institute a tax break that would pave the way for a 3,600-mile pipeline to carry natural gas from Alaska to the lower 48 states. The administration supports construction of a “commercially viable” pipeline, according to a position paper sent to Congress by the White House budget office, but believes “market forces should select the route and timing of the project.” Many senators on both sides of the aisle disagree, and as early as this week the Senate could approve tax breaks worth an estimated $800 million a year and other measures intended to speed the pipeline’s construction, as part of a big energy bill working it way through Congress. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), in a letter to Bush, said that if the tax credits aren’t approved, it could mean “higher natural-gas prices and the loss of American jobs.” A number of environmental groups have said they wouldn’t oppose the gas pipeline as long as it follows the same course as an existing oil pipeline and is subject to environmental reviews.

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