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March 22, 2001
Democrats to unveil alternative U.S. energy bill
U.S. Democratic lawmakers will unveil legislation Thursday to develop a comprehensive national energy policy, focusing on increasing renewable energy sources and promoting conservation efforts, while keeping Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge closed to drilling.
The legislation, which is being sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, is an alternative to a Republican- backed bill that would give oil firms drilling access to the Arctic refuge.
President George W. Bush has also made drilling in the refuge the centerpiece of his plans to increase domestic energy supplies and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
The Democratic bill also seeks to cut foreign oil imports, but reaches that goal through the use of more alternative energies like solar and wind.
Democratic congressional aides said the bill would also emphasize energy efficiency, such as having the Transportation Department work with the automobile makers to increase the number of miles a vehicle can travel on a gallon of gasoline.
The Democratic bill does not reject traditional fossil fuels and will provide tax incentives for building a pipeline to ship natural gas from areas in Alaska already opened to drilling to the Lower 48 states.
In a related matter, supporters of oil and natural gas drilling in the Arctic refuge unveiled Wednesday an advertising campaign to counter environmental groups that are opposed to opening the pristine wilderness area.
The coalition of businesses, trade associations and labor groups will run a series of television and radio spots to promote what they claim can be environmentally responsible exploration of the refuge's 1.5 million-acre coastal plain.
The $200,000 ad campaign will run over the next few weeks on stations in the Washington, D.C. market to influence members of Congress who will vote later this year on legislation to open the refuge.
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