Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Special Interests Wage Energy Bill War

While the Senate debates an energy bill that is already receiving veto threats from the White House, Senate Democrats are drafting a second measure that would earmark $10 Billion in loans for a coal to liquid fuel project. That bill has significant support among Senators from coal rich states, however it is meeting a great deal of opposition from the environmentalist lobby who oppose both coal mining and the greenhouse gas emissions (primarily carbon dioxide and water vapor) that the coal to liquid conversion would generate. (Washington Post: Democrats Push Coal-to-Liquids Energy Plan.)

The conversion of coal to liquid fuel, while inefficient from a process standpoint, is a viable means of increasing the non-petroleum based fuel additives without placing additional demand on the food supply as would occur with increased use of bio-fuels. Granted, it is not a permanent solution and efforts to develop a new energy source are still required, however any measure such as this that would decrease our consumption of oil based products is certainly worth investigation.

All energy proposals currently on the table are receiving widespread criticism from a variety of sources. The White House opposes a measure to mandate MPG minimum requirements. The auto industry opposes a measure to mandate increased fuel efficiencies. Environmental groups oppose a measure that does not significantly increase the standards for emissions controls. Simply put, there appear to be too many conflicting power groups - including lawmakers on both sides of the aisle - for a viable energy plan to make it into law.

The Democrat proposed coal to liquids measure is already struggling from other leading Democrats, including Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)who wants to include greenhouse gas emissions control in the measure - something which would make the entire process unworkable. Since water vapor is the largest greenhouse gas by volume present in our atmosphere and since water vapor is a natural byproduct from organic chemical reactions, it seems to me that the two measures are mutually exclusive. That alone may make it impossible for this measure to even make it out of committee.

What it all means is that legislators on both sides of the aisle want to talk tough on energy. At the same time, there does not appear to be any desire on the part of those same legislators to set an energy policy that is both viable and productive. With the House and Senate equally divided, special interests groups all lobbying against different aspects of any energy bill that comes up, and the White House vowing to veto any bill that sets concrete standards, it seems clear to me that nothing at all will be done for the foreseeable future.

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