Republican House bill has heavy focus on nuclear power

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Badly outnumbered and months behind in the debate on energy and climate change, House Republicans are introducing an energy bill as an alternative to the Democratic plan barreling toward a House vote this month.

The Republican proposal, drafted by a group led by Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, leans heavily on nuclear power, setting a goal of building 100 reactors over the next 20 years. No new nuclear plants have been ordered in the United States since 1978 because of the high cost of construction and uncertainty about regulatory approval.

The bill also provides incentives for increased oil and gas production on public and private lands and offshore. It would also authorize oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, a focus of 30 years of controversy in Congress.

The Republican measure does not include any mandatory cap on emissions of heat-trapping gases, relying instead on nuclear energy, natural gas and renewable fuels like wind, solar and biomass power to reduce production of the gases, which have been linked to global warming.

“This is an alternative that takes us in the direction of energy independence and a clean environment without the national energy tax being offered by the Democrats,” Mr. Pence said.

At forums around the country, he said, people expressed a desire for more energy from domestic sources and concern about rising fuel prices. “A minority in Congress plus the American people equals a majority,” he said.

Republican officials said they were intending to offer the proposal, known as the American Energy Act, as a substitute for the bill sponsored by Representatives Henry A. Waxman of California and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, both Democrats. The Waxman-Markey bill has been through hundreds of hours of public hearings and committee deliberations and passed the Energy and Commerce Committee last month on a 33-to-25 vote.

The Democratic measure will be considered by other House committees in coming days, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has made it clear that the bill is on a fast track to a vote in the full House before the July 4 Congressional recess. Committee leaders have been warned not to tinker too much with the substance of the 946-page bill, a product of extensive talks to win support from a number of Democrats worried about energy costs and job losses in their states.

Republican aides said they were hoping their bill would lure some of those Democrats away and give Republicans something to support, rather than simply opposing the Democratic plan.


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