By Ben Geman - 01/19/10 05:17 PM EST
"It is my assessment that we likely will not do a climate change bill this year, but we will do energy," Dorgan said, citing the difficulty of taking up a global warming bill after what he called the "very very heavy lift" on health care.
He instead touted the sweeping energy bill that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved in June with several GOP votes, and added the bill includes provisions that will help slow greenhouse gas emissions.
The bill includes a suite of energy efficiency measures, a nationwide renewable electricity mandate, expanded financing for low-emissions energy projects, and Dorgan's drilling provision.
"I think it is more likely for us to turn to something that is bipartisan and will address the country's energy interest and begin to address specific policies on climate change," said Dorgan, a senior member of the energy committee who is not running for reelection in 2010.
Dorgan spoke on a call hosted by the group Securing America's Future Energy, which brings together business officials and former military brass to support policies aimed at lessening oil imports -- including expanded domestic oil-and-gas drilling.
They released an analysis that concludes wider drilling in the eastern gulf would not disrupt military training in the area. Dorgan's provision would shrink the no-drilling buffer off Florida's shores to 45 miles, and allow rigs even closer in a gas-rich area called the Destin Dome.
The provision would upend a 2006 legislative compromise that gives Florida a far larger buffer until at least mid-2022. Dorgan's plan has enraged Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who says it would harm military readiness and has vowed a filibuster.