Friday, June 15, 2007

Senate Stymies Energy Progress

The Senate took a series of actions yesterday to cripple or kill any progress towards a meaningful energy bill that would address current supply issues while working towards more efficient future energy measures. At the forefront was an amendment by Senator John Warner (R-VA) to authorize off-shore drilling along the Virginia coast in a search for additional natural gas reserves. The Senate killed that measure despite Senator Domenici's (R-NM) assertion that, "John Warner's bill would be the first energy bill to produce energy." (Washington Post: Senate Rejects Va. Offshore Drilling.)

The major objections came from Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) over concerns that an oil spill off the Virginia coast would cause excessive damage to the New Jersey shoreline. I'll pause a moment to allow my readers to recompose themselves.

Okay. Just so we're all clear, the state of New Jersey, with a series of major oil refineries running through the state's central artery, is concerned about an off-shore spill in Virginia. Never mind the heavy dependence New Jersey has on refineries, and never mind that the ports around Philadelphia just to the south of New Jersey are also lined with oil refineries. The potential for a shipping disaster in either of those locations that would impact the New Jersey coast far outweighs any risk imposed by drilling off the Virginia coast. Instead, all this constitutes is partisan political obstructionism. So instead of actually doing something to increase our own supply while reducing our dependency on foreign sources, we are once again handcuffed by partisan politics. Why am I not surprised?

The Senate didn't stop there, though. Also rejected was a proposal by Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) that would require utilities to increase their use of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, or bio-fuel. That measure was blocked by the Republican side of the aisle, so let's not assume that obstructionism is a solely Democrat tactic.

Of course, what would a meaningful energy bill be without some safeguards for our special interest groups? Now, when it comes to protecting the wallets of the auto industry, the Senate can certainly act in a bipartisan fashion. On the surface, legislation supported by Carl Levin (D-MI) and Christopher Bond (R-MO) sounds good. It requires cars to achieve an average 36 MPG and trucks to achieve 30 MPG by 2022. Oddly enough, this is supported by the auto industry, so a closer look is required. As it turns out, this measure replaces one that would have resulted in a requirement for both cars and trucks to achieve 35 MPG in 2020 but increasing the requirement to 52 MPG by 2030. No wonder the auto industry likes the new measure! I'm certain the average consumer would benefit more from the original, however, but the average consumer has no lobby in Congress.

So the net result is business as usual in the US Senate. Action on a meaningful energy bill is effectively stalled thanks to partisan politics, and measures beneficial to major industry replace those beneficial to the American consumer. Is there any wonder why the approval ratings of both Congress and the President are approaching all-time lows?

1 comment :

Unknown said...

The pinko liberal contingent is equally contemptuous of the partisan gamesmanship. I'm sure some sociologist can come up with a profound treatise to explain why the current crop of politicians is so inept but we'll just have to wait on that.