Clearly, we are heading into the final stretches of the energy conference. Whether or not we reach the finish line depends largely on how some major issues shake out and how much time really is left in this 107th Congress. The answer should make itself known over the next 4-5 days as things play out. To a great extent, the groundwork has been laid for a successful conclusion of this conference; now we'll wait to see if the dominos fall into place. A lot is left to do, and not a lot of time to do it. No one working on this conference has been deluded into believing differently. The three most recent conference meetings, in which very little was accomplished beyond a few offers and a lot of huffing and puffing, can lead conference watchers to conclude that they're observing a death watch of sorts on the energy bill. But the "public face" of the conference does not necessarily match up with what really is going on. The backdrop to these recent meetings is the continuing struggle to craft an acceptable energy bill. The kinds of negotiations occurring right now, out of view, are precisely what happens at this stage of any big conference (e.g., Defense Bill, Farm Bill, Approps bills, etc.). It's all part of the process. The lack of transparency maddens many, who criticize the process. But such criticism betrays a lack of understanding in how conferences work -- for better or worse, that's the system we've got. This, of course, makes BOTH our jobs harder: you want to report on these behind-the-scenes discussions, and I want to help you. It's obvious now that this conference is going to go down to the wire. But our effort will be over soon -- one way or another. Enjoy the weekend.