Renewable, efficient energy touted to US lawmakers

WASHINGTON Fri Sep 12, 2008 8:40pm BST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Energy experts urged U.S. lawmakers on Friday to focus on efficiency and renewable energy, as well as increased domestic production, as they consider legislation to address volatile fuel prices.

Speaking at a bipartisan energy summit hosted by the U.S. Senate, experts encouraged lawmakers to invest in research and technology and make tax credits for renewable energy consistent.

"An on-again, off-again production tax credit is not a way to promote stable development of renewable energy," Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, told lawmakers.

"Uncertainty is the enemy of investment, whether for renewables and alternatives or for conventional energy."

Lawmakers have been locked in a stalemate over how to handle high fuel costs, specifically whether to lift the moratorium on offshore drilling.

Although panelists said increasing offshore drilling would not solve all of America's energy problems, they seemed to agree that more drilling would be necessary as the nation transitions to alternative fuels.

"Eliminating fossil fuels any time soon, I would argue, is impossible because we have nothing to replace them with," said Frank Verrastro, director of the energy and national security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Senators Kent Conrad, a Democrat from North Dakota, and Saxby Chambliss, a Republican from Georgia, requested the energy summit.

Conrad and Chambliss lead a bipartisan group of Senators floating an energy package that would expand offshore drilling to the coasts of four southeastern states and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. In addition, the package would boost funding for renewable energy and repeal some tax breaks for oil companies.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bipartisan package next week.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; editing by Jim Marshall)