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Senators protest cutting renewable fuels provision

By Associated Press
Published September 30, 2003

WASHINGTON - Fifty-three senators, including eight Republicans, urged on Monday that a compromise energy bill require electric utilities to produce a minimum amount of their power from renewable fuels such as solar panels or wind turbines.

In a letter, the senators protested a decision by House and Senate Republicans involved in the energy negotiations to leave the renewable fuels requirement out of a final energy package.

The senators said a strong renewable fuels standard for utilities would reduce U.S. dependence on natural gas by promoting fuel diversity, would help utilities avoid price spikes and would help promote development of renewable fuels markets around the country.

The letter noted that the Senate has approved twice in the last two years a requirement that utilities produce at least 10 percent of their electricity by using nonhydro renewable fuels. The House rejected both mandates.

Senate Republicans, who already have completed much of the energy bill in negotiations with the House majority, have given no indication they were ready to put the renewable fuels standard back into the energy legislation.

Electric utilities have lobbied hard against such a requirement. They contend that in some regions of the country, where renewable fuels would be harder to obtain, electricity prices might be forced up unnecessarily. They contend mandates on fuel use should be left to the states.

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., chairman of the energy talks, has said repeatedly that he's not interested in "a renewable fuels portfolio" for electric utilities, although the Senate approved such a requirement as part of its energy bill. The legislation passed by the House last April did not include it.

The senators discounted claims that it would force up electricity prices in some parts of the country. Instead, they argued, a use of renewable fuels "will promote fuel diversity and reduction of our substantial dependence on natural gas ... (and) ease shortages and price spikes in our natural gas supplies."

Among those signing the letter were Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., the leading Democrat involved in the energy talks.

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