The Obama administration hasn’t done much to use the BP Gulf oil disaster to push good energy policy. The best we’ve gotten is yesterday’s press conference, where Obama included a pro forma paragraph “calling on” Congress to pass the American Power Act, the climate and clean-energy bill in the Senate. (No threats, no anger, not much urgency.)
The climate bill is a big, thorny controversy. But it’s worth keeping in mind that it’s not the only game in town when it comes to reducing America’s oil use. While it’s being hashed out, there are plenty of other smaller, incremental steps that could be taken, as reflected in a few recently introduced bills.
First up is a bipartisan bill that was introduced in both chambers this week. The Electric Drive Vehicle Deployment Act of 2010 was introduced on the House side by Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.). The same bill was introduced on the Senate side by Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). It would effectively dump a bunch of money on a few communities to deploy electric vehicles at scale, along with providing some more money for incentives.
Then there’s Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) somewhat more ambitious Clean Coasts and Efficient Cars Act, which would make the moratorium on offshore drilling permanent and boost fuel-economy standards from 35 mpg by 2030 to 55 mpg by 2030. “Is 3-cents-a-gallon in the year 2030 worth the potential risk of another disaster like this?” Sanders asked. “I don’t think it is.” Good point!
Over in the Senate Energy Committee, the Home Star bill — which I wrote about glowingly when it passed the House — was introduced by a bipartisan coalition of senators including Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). At least Graham was still involved at press time …
And earlier this week there was the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act, introduced by Sens. Merkley, Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). As the title indicates, it would close some of the many corporate tax loopholes that favor the oil industry, thus bringing oil’s market price at least one step closer to reality.
The media narrative seems to be settling in on an Oil Spill vs. Climate Bill thing, but it’s worth remembering that if America really wants to break its oil addiction, there are all kinds of small steps it could be taking right now. Not everything has to wait for the Big Bill.