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Right-bloggers are batting this item around the Internet .. Looks like we are about to give Reid a bipartisan energy victory, where we sacrifice ANWR, oil shale, nuclear, and more for in exchange for a butchered OCS policy, energy earmarks (wind, solar, etc), and heavy federal regulation of energy markets in the name of "cracking down on speculators"... And it could mute the one issue that is resonating right now... 

Senate leaders open to compromise energy measure
Posted: 07/09/08 02:23 PM [ET]
Senate leaders on Wednesday signaled the possibility of crafting a compromise energy bill as voters sound alarm about the skyrocketing cost of gasoline. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters that expanded offshore drilling, which the Republicans have long supported, is not off the table. Plus, he said that while he opposes giving the states the right to choose whether to drill off their costs, he said Democrats are “taking a look at that.”Web Bug from“I’m not knee-jerk-opposed to anything,” Reid said. “We’re willing to work; we haven’t shut our minds to anything.”

His Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), said Wednesday that there was an “increasing possibility that we may be able to accomplish something.” He signaled a willingness to consider ways to boost energy production from renewable sources, such as wind, solar and biomass.

But he warned that adding too much into one bill could make a compromise measure unwieldy. “Small mouthfuls have a better chance around here,” McConnell said.

As the price of gasoline has shot above $4 a gallon, the two parties have increasingly deflected the blame in order to avoid a backlash from voters. But as the issue tops the list of public concerns, it is becoming increasingly clear that the two sides need to appear to be trying to solve the problem in order to avoid wide damage in November.

Senate Republican leadership has floated a plan they say is a compromise, dropping a provision calling for drilling in Alaska and adding conservation measures like incentives for more fuel-efficient cars. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, continued to meet Thursday to craft a bill that will be targeted strictly at reining in market speculation on oil futures, but on Wednesday suggested they might be open to adding supply-side provisions that Republicans have long supported. Adding to the pressure to craft a compromise is a bipartisan group of more than 10 senators that is negotiating a middle ground.

Public opinion polls have shown a shift towards support of expanded offshore drilling, putting Democrats in the tough spot of jettisoning their longstanding concerns about the damaging environmental effects of the practice. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Wednesday that he wants to “limit offshore drilling if there is any environmental impact.” He added that there are more than 30 million acres leased by oil companies that they should use to explore. “They ought to lose their leases if they aren’t going to use it,” Durbin said.

However, he also stated, “Beyond that, if there is a suggestion of some new area to go into, I’ll look at it.”

Democrats say it would take about a decade before new exploration would affect prices, but Republicans say that not expanding access now would only make gas prices rise even further in the future.

Reid said he “absolutely” hears the concerns about a lack of drilling, but he said “there are very few things that we can do to lower the price of gas immediately.” He cited taking oil out of the emergency oil reserve, reducing market speculation and adding more renewable fuels to the mix.

“At whatever point we turn to this, there will be an effort made on a bipartisan basis to make sure that the package that ultimately passes the Senate would actually make a difference,” McConnell said.