House approves Alaskan refuge oil drilling 

| Friday, April 11, 2003

The House approved incentives April 11 for oil and gas production, including a go-ahead for drilling in an Alaska wildlife refuge, despite complaints the bill gives too much to energy companies and does little to promote conservation, The Associated Press reported.

The bill, approved 247-175, now awaits action by the Senate, which is expected to consider a less industry-friendly energy bill next month.

Republican leaders called the legislation a fair balance. The measure would spur development of traditional fossil fuels and renewable energy through a mix of tax breaks, federal royalty relief and opening new areas of production such as the Alaska refuge, they said.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, says those who argued against developing the refuge's oil don't have the facts and have not visited the area on Alaska's North Slope, just east of the oil-rich Prudhoe Bay fields.

The legislation also includes provisions that benefit everyone from corn farmers who want to produce more ethanol to automakers seeking to develop hydrogen fuel cells and utilities that want to reduce their cost of building power lines.

Among the provisions: A requirement to double the use of corn-based ethanol to 5 billion gallons a year by 2015; a $1.8 billion program to promote development of hydrogen as a fuel for cars and electricity production; a measure that lets companies avoid federal royalty payments on natural gas taken from very deep wells in the Gulf of Mexico; authority for federal energy regulators to direct the siting of electric power lines if states fail to do so; and a licensing streamlining process for hydroelectric dams.

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