Energy bill goes to Senate floor amidst bipartisan hopes

With the public up in arms about gas prices and President Bush breathing down its neck, today the Senate begins consideration — again — of the Moby Dick of modern-day politics: the energy bill. The House already passed a version, attacked by greens and fiscal conservatives for its billions in subsidies to fossil-fuel industries. By all accounts, a new spirit of bipartisan cooperation on energy matters is afoot in the Senate, and its version is likely to be less overtly fossil-friendly. Amendments have been offered that would boost ethanol use, require more electricity to be generated by renewable sources, reduce dependence on foreign oil, and raise fuel-economy standards. And no less than three amendments intended to fight global warming are on offer, including the much-discussed McCain-Lieberman proposal. It remains to be seen whether any of these eco-friendly amendments will find their way into the Senate’s final bill, whether the bill itself will pass, and, if it does, whether it will survive contentious negotiations in the House-Senate conference committee, where MTBE liability remains a huge sticking point.