Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.) and 18 other senators unveiled legislation yesterday that would commit the nation to a massive energy development program, reshuffle part of the Energy Department and spend about $5 billion on favored energy projects.
Calling it "a mobilization effort," Jackson said the bill was warranted because "the country is mad at all of us, the president, the Congress and the oil companies."
Jackson, who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, offered no firm estimates of how much energy the plan would produce, or how much it would cost consumers or the government.
A summary of the legislation prepared by the Senate Energy Committee, however, estimated that the measure could reduce oil imports by 300,000 barrels a day by the end of this year, and by from 3 million to 6.2 million barrels a day by 1990. Oil imports are now running at about 8 million barrels a day.
The Senate proposal, largely a collection of earlier proposed or enacted bills, is a symbol of Congress' frustration over the administration's handling of energy issues, as well as the growing congressional interest in synthetic fuels - converting coal and oil shale to oil or natural gas.
As if to underscore this point, Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.) told a news briefing, "the American people are in the mood to do something, even if it is wrong."
Jackson said Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) says he will consider bringing the bill to the floor next month and a final Senate vote could be expected later in the summer.
Similar legistion geared to developing synthetic fuels has been introduced in the House and is now pending before the House Banking Committee.
New Hampshire Democrat Sen. John Durkin said the bill "can be supported by every area of the country."
One argument underlying Durkin's judgment, according to one Senate aide is that the bill, which also authorizes funding 15 demonstration project "is one of the most extraordinary catalogues of energy pork barrel in legislative history."
Aside from creating an Office of Priority Energy Projects within the Energy Department to shepherd critical energy facilities through the permit and regulatory process, the bill would sharply limit judicial review of controversial project.
Under another provision it would also eliminate a requirement for the secretary of energy to meet potential requirement under the National Environmental Policy Act.
At a press conference held by most of the bill's cosponsors, Byrd and Majority Whip Alan Cranston (D-Calif.), Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.) said, "Most of us see this as an effort to shake the country out of its energy paralysis."
Included in the 93-page bill are measures to provide:
$500 million for the Solvent Refined Coal I project destined for Kentucky and supported by Sens. Wendell Ford and Walter Huddleston, both Kentucky Democrats.
$700 million for the SRC II project for Byrd's West Virginia.
More than$1 billion for Hi and Low BTU coal gasification projects backed by the Ohio, Louisiana and Kentucky delegations including Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) and Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.).
Geothermal plants supported by the California, Idaho and New Mexico delegations, including Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho), Cranston and Sen. Pete Domenici (D-N.M.).
$300 million in loan guarantees for an Urban Waste and Industrial Waste conversion plants that has won the support of Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.).
And $250 million for a fuel cell demonstration program that has been boosted by Sen. Lowell Weicker (R-Conn.) at the urging of United Technologies Corp., a Connecticut-based firm involved in such development.