An energy bill that passed the U.S. Senate by an overwhelming margin Tuesday could lead to increased ethanol production on Colorado's Eastern Plains and a measured return to development of oil shale on the Western Slope.
Colorado's senators mirrored the overwhelming bipartisan support of the bill that passed the Senate on Tuesday by a margin of 85-12.
Republican Sen. Wayne Allard and Democrat Sen. Ken Salazar supported the bill and think the considerable gap between the Senate bill and a corresponding House measure that passed in April can be closed. The House bill is far less generous in terms of funding tax incentives for the use of alternative energy and its commitment to conservation.
"As chairman of the renewable energy caucus, I'm pleased to see a number of provisions that promote the use of renewable energy and efficient technology," Allard said in a prepared statement. "From a national security standpoint, I'm pleased the bill doesn't place too much emphasis on any one energy source."
Jen Clanahan, deputy press secretary for Salazar, said the senator is optimistic he can expand on the relationships he built with Senate Republicans to help broker an end to the recent impasse about judicial appointments and move the energy bill forward. Unlike some senators, Salazar thinks it's realistic to meet President Bush's request that Congress present him with a unified energy bill by August.
Neither Colorado senator knows whether Majority Leader Bill Frist will consider them for a position on the conference committee, which will attempt to hammer out a compromise between the House and Senate versions of the bill. Both senators have the credentials. Allard is on the renewable energy caucus, and Salazar is a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Angela de Rocha, communications director for Allard, said the senator would be eager to serve on the energy conference committee, but she pointed out that Allard already is serving in a similar capacity on pending transportation legislation.
Clanahan said Salazar work-ed hard on an oil-shale amendment to the energy bill, hoping to ensure development of the resource in Western Colorado would go forward at a deliberate pace that would minimize adverse impacts.
"He really wants to make sure we go slow and get it right," Clanahan said.
Oil-shale development led to a boom-and-bust debacle on the Western Slope 23 years ago. The amendment to the energy bill would guard against that by requiring completion of an environmental impact statement before any commercial leasing of oil-shale deposits is allowed.
Allard said it is important to him that the energy bill provides for the development of oil shale and for more production of nuclear energy. Colorado's oil-shale deposits are estimated to contain 1 trillion barrels of oil.
Salazar's office said the Senate's energy bill includes legislation that would create a test program that will allow Colorado to better develop alternative means of using coal. Colorado coal would be included in a high-altitude test program for integrated coal gasification technology. A coal gasification power plant uses heat and pressure to extract energy from coal without permitting complete combustion. The result is a cleaner process.
Salazar also worked to influence a renewable energy provision in the bill that would increase America's ethanol use to 8 billion gallons by 2012. Ethanol plants are being planned for Evans, Windsor and Sterling.
Salazar cosponsored an amendment to the bill that requires 10 percent of the nation's electricity be generated from renewable resources by 2020.
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