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Energy Reform Limps Ahead

Doyle said the decision to skip the subcommittee shouldn’t sour its members against the final package, “as long as we have final agreements.” But he also warned that Waxman could face trouble if he uses the tactic as an end around moderates. “If we still don’t have agreements and he tries to take it up to full committee, that may be a different story,” he said.

But Doyle insisted that a deal was within reach: “Henry just has some decisions to make. We’ve reached a point where everybody has their cards out on the table.”

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), who represents a coal district and has been pushing for credits for utilities and a slower initial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, also said significant progress had been made. He said Members are putting in 15-hour days, even on weekends, to get a deal done.

“We hope to have our work concluded in the not-too-distant future,” Boucher said.

Boucher said he stressed to Obama the need for regional balance, noting that some areas of the country get nearly all of their electricity from coal and would be subject to significant price hikes unless accommodations are made. He also has stressed the importance of getting broad support from industry.

Obama, Boucher said, gave the lawmakers leeway to reach a consensus that reflects the regional differences on energy production. Obama also said he hoped to use the bill that emerges as a template for getting through the Senate, Boucher said.

While Energy and Commerce Democrats were huddling with the president, a bipartisan bloc of Members was announcing an alternative energy vision that relies on tapping offshore oil and gas reserves to fund alternative energy, nuclear power and other initiatives to promote energy independence.

Led by Abercrombie and Murphy, the plan is an offshoot of last year’s effort by Abercrombie and former Rep. John Peterson (R-Pa.) to promote offshore drilling. That effort ultimately helped force Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to abandon efforts to extend the offshore drilling ban last year.

Abercrombie ripped the cap-and-trade talks as “stalled” and said that’s why Obama had to step in. He called cap-and-trade “virtually unexplainable, and when it does get explained, nobody wants to do it. Can you explain it? Can you explain it to your mom?”

Asked if the Abercrombie bill would distract moderates, Doyle said the panel “is focused on this bill. This is the hand we’re dealt, this is the hand we’re playing. We’re not looking at other people’s bills.”

Moments later, Abercrombie interrupted the press scrum around Doyle to offer an emphatic thumbs-down.

“Tell me how you really feel, Neil,” Doyle joked.

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