Senate passes energy bill

Late last month, after seemingly endless go-rounds, the Senate passed an energy bill that contains big boosts for nuclear power, “clean coal,” and corn-blended ethanol, and would require 10 percent of electrical utilities’ power to come from renewables by 2020. “With oil prices recently topping $60 a barrel, this legislation can come none too soon,” said Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), though the bill’s allegedly propitious timing was cast in doubt by Energy Secretary Sam Bodman’s forthright acknowledgment that it wouldn’t actually affect oil prices at all. The Senate’s version of the bill bypasses several contentious issues — including a liability shield for manufacturers of MTBE and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — likely to sow discord in the coming House-Senate conference committee meetings, where a final bill will be hashed out. Two previous versions have died there, but President Bush has all but demanded an energy bill on his desk before Congress’ August recess. Don’t make him come down there.