WASHINGTON — Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., came out Wednesday against an energy bill forming in the Senate, contending it will do little to reduce gasoline prices or boost U.S. energy production.
Ensign said the bill, written by Democrats to stress renewable energy, conservation and energy efficiency, “completely misses the mark.”
“We need more domestic supply,” he said.
U.S. energy independence can only be fully achieved by increasing the capacity of refineries and by exploring new sources such as the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, Ensign maintained.
“This Democrat bill only punishes those using and producing energy, which will result in even higher gas prices,” he said.
On energy, Nevada’s senators are at odds.
Democrat Harry Reid, an architect of the Senate bill, said the nation must look beyond oil drilling.
“America has less than 3 percent of the oil in the world,” Reid, the Senate’s majority leader, said Wednesday. “We cannot produce our way out of the problems we have.
“There are some Republicans who continually talk about drilling for more oil,” he said “That is like what’s going on in Iraq: more of the same.”
Nevada’s senators staked their positions as the Senate continued to work through amendments. On Wednesday, senators debated a requirement that 15 percent of the nation’s electricity be produced by wind, biomass, geothermal and other renewable energy sources.
Democrats were trying to include the renewable fuel requirements in the bill, but they faced opposition from senators who worry that such a national mandate would raise electricity costs in some states.
Reid and Ensign said they supported the renewable fuel requirement. Nevada already has one in place that requires power companies to purchase 20 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2015.
Besides Nevada, 22 states require utilities to move toward meeting minimum renewable fuel use requirements. Nine of them have standards that equal or exceed the Senate proposal.
Reid said broadening the renewable standard will increase energy security.
The proposal was sharply criticized by a Republican senator who said it would force a mandate onto utilities, mainly in the Southeast, that they will be unable to meet because they have little sources of wind power, one of the fastest-growing renewables.
“Some regions cannot meet the renewable mandate because they don’t have adequate renewable resources,” said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M. He circulated a study commissioned by the Edison Electric Institute, the utility trade group, that shows 27 states would be unable to comply with the 15 percent renewables requirement.
“You cannot impose the same regulated wind requirement on a state that has no wind,” said Domenici.
Stephens Washington Bureau writer Brian Duggan and the Associated Press contributed to this report.