House Republicans to push series of energy bills

WASHINGTON Thu Mar 10, 2011 3:49pm EST

Gasoline prices are shown as a customer purchases fuel at a gas station in Del Mar, California March 9, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Gasoline prices are shown as a customer purchases fuel at a gas station in Del Mar, California March 9, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the House of Representatives said on Thursday they would seek to combat rising oil and gasoline prices with a series of bills this year aimed at spurring domestic energy production.

For years, Republicans have urged an "all-of-the-above" approach to easing U.S. dependence on foreign oil by fostering more development of domestic oil, natural gas and nuclear power. They also have said that alternative energy sources should be part of the mix.

"The average price for a gallon of gas is on its way to $4," House Speaker John Boehner told reporters, complaining that Obama administration energy policies will push gasoline prices higher by regulating carbon dioxide emissions.

"Republicans have a plan to help lower gas prices and create new jobs," he added.

Democrats shot back that Boehner was ignoring Mideast turmoil, including strife in oil-producing Libya, in their rush to blame the Obama administration for rising gasoline prices.

"When it comes to high oil prices, this is about OPEC, not Obama," said Representative Ed Markey. He also noted that domestic oil production last year, with Obama in the White House, was the highest since 2003.

Many of the ideas Republicans were touting on Thursday have been hashed around for years on Capitol Hill and some of them have been advocated by Democrats in Congress as well.

Instead of pushing ahead with a comprehensive energy bill, as House Democrats attempted over the past two years with failed climate control legislation, Boehner talked about "bite-size chunks" that could be accomplished more easily.

"Why wouldn't we have a bill to encourage vehicles to use natural gas and do it by itself," Boehner asked, using the same formula for separate legislation to encourage more oil and gas exploration in the United States and feeding royalties from such projects "to support more green energy."

Boehner also included a nuclear energy bill in the list.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings said his panel would focus on "the most immediate solutions" to rising energy prices be restarting oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico following a moratorium that stemmed from the BP disaster there nearly a year ago.

"There were active leases prior to the moratorium. There's no reason why those leases now should not be executed," Hastings said.

U.S. retail gasoline prices have been on the rise as world oil prices have increased sharply, with a barrel of crude now topping $100 a barrel.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton said he would focus on ways to streamline the licensing and construction timelines for new nuclear reactors.

"By lowering the number of years, we lower the costs," he said.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Kim Dixon; Editing by Walter Bagley and Lisa Shumaker)

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