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Editorial - It was a very busy week for energy discussions

Talk about energy was center stage this week in Congress, the presidential race, in North Dakota and in consumption forecasts. How this all plays out in the end, however, is anyone's guess as gas and oil prices continue their record upward climbs.

Congress continued to battle this past week over whether the ban on offshore oil and gas drilling should be lifted. Republicans are pushing for the offshore drilling measure to be lifted, while Democrats say existing oil leases aren't being pursued and should be developed first.

Meanwhile, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., continue to throw out their own energy solutions. McCain wants to provide a summer break from the 18.4-cent federal gas tax and supports removing the ban on the offshore drilling. He wants to build 45 new nuclear electric-generating reactors and proposes a $300 million government prize to anyone who can develop a superior battery to power cars of the future.

Obama promises cash back from the windfall-profit tax he wants to place on oil companies. He also wants to go after oil speculators, while also providing subsidies for solar, wind, ethanol and other alternative-energy products.

Back at home, an energy policy commission appointed by Gov. John Hoeven reported Thursday that North Dakota lawmakers should use a menu of tax breaks and incentives to encourage more production of oil, coal, wind power and alternative fuels.

The Associated Press reported the commission advocates doubling the state's energy output by 2025, and says one-quarter of its energy production should come from renewable sources by then. The commission's report sets a number of production goals, some of which have already been met or are easily within reach.

At the same time, the future energy forecast by the federal Energy Department's statistical agency states global energy demand will grow by 50 percent over the next two decades. The growth also will continue a heavy reliance on fossil fuels, especially coal and oil.

The AP reported the growth in energy demand is especially dramatic in developing countries, led by China. The forecast includes the use of coal worldwide to increase at a rate of 2 percent per year, with China accounting for three-quarters of that increase.

The world's demand for liquid fuels, mostly oil, is expected to grow to 113 million barrels a day by 2030, or a third more than we consume today. Unconventional oil from oil shale and biofuels like ethanol should reach 10 percent of total liquid fuels.

The Energy Department report also states oil could cost as little as $113 a barrel or as much as $186 a barrel in 2030. How clear is your crystal ball?