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Commentary: Bad time for Congress to weigh bill boosting oil consumption

Even as Americans recoil in horror at images of oil-soaked birds and tarred marshes along the Gulf of Mexico, certain members of Congress are attempting to block measures that would improve vehicle fuel economy and reduce the pressure to expand offshore oil drilling.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on a resolution by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, that would roll back the U.S. EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases and implement a version of California's "clean cars" law. If implemented nationwide, the California law would dramatically improve fuel economy in cars and trucks and eliminate the need to import and pump millions of barrels of oil yearly.

Murkowski and her allies market her resolution as part of a crusade for smaller government, but make no mistake about who is behind this move. Lobbyists for coal companies, electric utilities and the oil industry helped write the original amendment for Murkowski, who has been a major recipient of campaign contributions for those industries.

These businesses want to maintain the status quo – wasteful and excessive use of fossil fuels that adds to their profits, even as it pollutes the atmosphere, oceans and beaches.

Murkowski may have a hard time finding 51 votes for her Senate Joint Resolution 26. Even if it passes the Senate, this attempt to weaken the federal Clean Air Act will face tough sledding in the House and ultimately would face a likely veto from President Barack Obama.

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