Final Version of Energy Bill Is Bad News for the Environment

After many weeks of pork-barrel politics conducted behind closed doors, Republican negotiators yesterday released a final version of the first big energy bill to emerge from Congress in more than a decade — and it’s a doozy. The package, which contains loads of subsidies for industry and loads of bad news for the environment, now goes back to the House and Senate for a vote; if the two chambers okay it, President Bush will enthusiastically sign it into law. Among other things, the bill would: give $14.5 billion in tax breaks to the oil, gas, and coal industries; provide major subsidies for ethanol producers; earmark $1.8 billion for research into “clean coal” (which enviros say is an oxymoron); use tax benefits to encourage nuclear power and a natural-gas pipeline from Alaska to the Midwest; smooth the way for oil and gas companies to drill on sensitive public lands with fewer environmental reviews; and let the U.S. EPA extend deadlines for polluted cities to clean up their air. On the plus side, the legislation would direct about $1.5 billion in tax breaks for energy efficiency, and it would not open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, but that’s small comfort to enviros.