No redeeming value

July 27, 2005

AMAZINGLY, House and Senate negotiators have managed to combine two bad versions of energy legislation into a final product that's worse.

Despite claims to the contrary, the measure won't lower energy prices, spur the economy, create jobs or promote energy conservation and efficiency. Instead, it fosters the faulty notion that if environmental and other regulatory burdens are lifted, the good old fossil-fuel industry can meet the challenge of increased energy demand. The legislation's approach to renewable energy sources is to subsidize the producers and provide tax credits to consumers.

In short, these lawmakers seem to think we can party like it's 1999 - promoting an economy built around $11 per barrel oil and asking for no sacrifice except the environmental degradation that results from lifting restrictions on oil and gas drilling, refinery siting and power-line locations.

Not even the measure's gimmicky plan to extend daylight savings time by a month each year offers indisputable benefits.

Most depressing is that so many lawmakers are in thrall to the energy industry, to the automakers or to the related unions that this turkey is likely to be approved as a final disservice to the nation before Congress adjourns for its summer recess.

Where's the filibuster when we need one?

Consider some of the bill's key features:

No requirement for higher vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, which experts agree is the single most effective step Congress could take to conserve fuel, help the U.S. auto industry compete globally, protect the environment, create jobs and boost the economy.

Not one American car is included among the top 10 most fuel-efficient vehicles on the market. Is it any wonder sales are down?

Tax breaks and subsidies of $11.5 billion for the energy industry, which is already the most profitable in the nation.

A mandate on refiners to double the amount of plant-based ethanol included in blended fuels, which is mostly a payoff to Midwest corn growers of marginal value as an environmentally friendly alternative. Whatever value ethanol does have is undercut by inducements in the bill to produce cars that can run either on gasoline or ethanol blends, thus lifting pressure on service stations to offer the alternative.

An inventory of offshore oil and gas resources as a prelude to opening coastal areas now off limits to drilling.

Federal reliability standards for the electric transmission grid that are coupled with the elimination of consumer protections.

President Bush and the Republican-led Congress want desperately to be able to fan out over the country this summer, proclaiming to Americans that they have responded to their concerns about high gasoline prices and their fears about being so dependent on oil from abroad.

Responded? Yes. Taken any meaningful action to ameliorate the problem? No. The so-called energy bill is a fraud.

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