After being beat up by national and local Republicans over a "do-nothing" Democratic-controlled Congress, Democratic House member Jim Matheson says his new energy bill is a good first step in at least trying to have some kind of sensible national energy policy.

Matheson's 2nd Congressional District GOP challenger, Bill Dew, says Matheson was irresponsible in voting to adjourn the U.S. House last Friday with Congress not adopting any energy policy, or attempting to lower gasoline prices. (Gas prices have been falling on their own the past week.)

And the Republican National Congressional Committee — the group that supports GOP U.S. House candidates — also lambasted Matheson for voting to adjourn Congress for five weeks. (Congress usually takes an August recess, to campaign in election years or vacation in non-election years.)

The vote to adjourn passed by just one vote. Dew said if he was in Congress, the adjourning vote would have failed and Congress would have kept working on energy.

A number of GOP congressmen, including Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, have stayed in Washington, D.C., this week to speak about energy on the darkened House floor.

Matheson spokeswoman Alyson Heyrend says Matheson, Utah's lone Democrat in the congressional delegation, is the major sponsor of the new energy bill, co-sponsored by a number of other House Democrats. Republicans and Democrats have been working hard on energy for some time, said Heyrend, and now Republicans are just taking cheap shots at an adjournment that traditionally happens each August.

The new bill is called the "Fulfilling U.S. Energy Leadership Act," or FUEL Act.

"Utah families recognize we face a complicated challenge, and it will take a comprehensive approach to meet it," Matheson said in a press release Wednesday. "Rather than waste more time pointing fingers, I believe we have to pull all the levers available to us, starting with producing as much oil and natural gas as possible in this country."

The FUEL Act has several provisions. For example, it:

• Lifts the ban on exploring and drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. States could drill 50 miles to 100 miles off their shores (rigs wouldn't be visible from the beach).

• Would take up to $40 billion from off-shore oil production and put it into a new fund to encourage alternative energy technologies.

• Drops the hold on oil shale and tar sand leasing in the West.

• Allows the energy secretary to invest monies in research and development in all kinds of alternative technologies, like wind, plug-in hybrid cars, electric cars, hydrogen energy and so on.

• Addresses oil price manipulation and speculation.

• Studies expanding nuclear energy.

• Extends the current renewable energy production tax credit and provides $1.5 billion for carbon capture projects.

E-mail: [email protected]