The New York Times today takes issue with President Bush’s call to pass “bipartisan energy legislation” before this Congress finishes – saying that instead the “House and Senate should limit their work in this final session to as few measures as possible”.

The energy bill Bush has in mind, says the Times, is in fact two bills, one in the Senate and another in the House. Both would authorize increased offshore drilling for oil and natural gas. But there are huge differences between them.

The Senate bill, “co-sponsored by Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, is a narrowly drawn measure that would open a section of the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas exploration and use part of the royalties to help rebuild Louisiana’s battered wetlands and barrier islands”.

The House bill, by contrast, “is a broad, mischievous and badly conceived piece of work sponsored by Richard Pombo, Republican of California, that, in a stroke, would lift a long-standing federal moratorium on oil and gas drilling along the entire American coastline. The bill has been vigorously opposed by most state governors from Maine to California”.

The good news is that Big Oil supporter Pombo (who took huge amounts of money off the oil industry), was defeated last Tuesday. The danger though is that “Mr. Pombo’s defeat in last Tuesday’s election raises the distinct possibility that he will make one last desperate effort to help his friends in the oil and gas industry before he retires into well-earned political obscurity”.

Couldn’t have put it better myself. Many people will be celebrating that Pombo will soon be spending more time with his family. But we must all make sure his final act of folly is not passed before he hopefully disappears into the history books.