Even the Economist …
… knows that the energy bill stinks to high heaven:
So is Congress rushing to embrace innovative ideas to kick the oil habit? Certainly not. In fact, the House of Representatives has just done the opposite by passing an energy bill stuffed full of subsidies for the oil-and-gas business. It includes giveaways for ethanol (a pretty ungreen petrol additive popular with corn farmers) and cheap catastrophic insurance for the nuclear industry. Meanwhile, it does nothing to close a loophole that allows sports-utility vehicles and Hummers to escape fuel-economy standards.
This bill is similar to last year’s failed energy bill, which itself was based on the recommendations of the Cheney energy task force of 2001. But the House managed to add so much more pork–including a $2 billion giveaway to oil companies for deep-water research–to the bill that even the White House now criticises it as excessively costly. Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group, estimates that the full cost could be more than $90 billion (see chart). The bill now goes to the Senate.
Mr Bush’s idea of reform may be a little more sophisticated than Congress’s, but not much. His main priority is simply to get a bill through. He has asked Republican leaders for a final bill by August. On April 27th, he even offered the Senate some new sops to the oil-and-gas lobby in the name of “energy independence”. He wants to help buyers of cars with cleaner-burning diesel engines, utilities building nuclear plants and energy companies building refineries or “liquefied natural gas” facilities (all half-measures or worse).
Some geo-greens think the energy bill will fall apart. That would, in theory, allow the politicians to redraft a better bill–perhaps even one that included sensible provisions on auto-fuel efficiency, mandatory carbon curbs and so on. A few years ago, such reforms would have found scant support. Now they may find unexpected allies. For instance, the farm lobby is getting gradually more eager to plant windmills instead of profitless crops. The energy behemoth may still largely be committed to cheap oil; but there are a growing number of small technology companies looking for alternatives who resent the giveaways to Old Oil.
James Woolsey, a former director of the CIA, envisions a geo-green coalition of “tree-huggers, do-gooders, sod busters and cheap hawks” pushing for energy independence. The oddest couple of all–Jerry Taylor of the libertarian Cato Institute and Dan Becker of the deeply verdant Sierra Club–have just issued a joint call for a radically different energy policy: a market-based, “zero subsidy” energy bill. If such coalitions really spring forth, then American energy policy, and the Axis of Oil, would be turned on its ear.
(via a Kos diarist)
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