The House and Senate are attempting to resolve differences between their respective far-ranging, counter-productive energy bills, neither of which is good news for energy producers or consumers.

Meanwhile, 234 professional and academic economists warned Congress last week that more taxes, regulations and subsidies will harm rather than help the nation's energy policy. The warning was signed by a Nobel laureate, professors from Harvard, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, UCLA and other colleges as well as representatives of think tanks, including the Brookings Institution, Hoover Institution and Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation.

"We write to strongly advise against the inclusion of damaging anti-market provisions in the energy bills moving through Congress," their letter began. "History has shown that attempts by the federal government to tax, regulate and subsidize our way to more plentiful and secure energy have failed miserably."

Instead, the economists urged Congress to reduce government interference in "the markets that are capable of delivering innovative energy solutions ... ." It's good advice that Congress should take.

The Senate energy bill would require automakers to increase mileage ratings on cars and light trucks from 25 miles per gallon to 35 by 2020.

According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Sam Kazman, the federal fuel economy mandates already are one of this country's worst regulations because they rely on across-the-board command-and-control imposition of arbitrary standards, the antithesis of a free market. But the mandates don't just increase consumer prices. A 2002 study by the National Research Council showed they already have contributed to about 2,000 traffic deaths a year because of the forced production of lighter-weight, less crash-resistant vehicles.

The House bill includes no fuel economy requirements as a concession to Michigan Rep. John Dingell, among whose most influential constituents are automakers. But the House version calls for an excessive 15 percent of U.S. electricity to be generated from subsidized "renewable" sources by 2020, even though only 3 percent today is provided by bio-fuels, solar and wind power. Utilities that fall short of the imposed goal would be fined.

We agree with the 234 economists that government easing up on its regulatory burdens, rather than increasing them, will permit the market to adjust to the nation's energy needs and meet consumers' demands more affordably and with less damage to the economy and personal safety.