Sunday, December 16, 2007

Does anyone wonder--What are we still doing passing marginal energy bills?

There have been two energy bills passed last Thursday which have caught my attention. First, of course, is the Senate Energy Bill which passed 86-8 (see the nice summary article in Forbes here, and the Senate of my home state of Pennsylvania passed its version of Governor Ed Rendell's Energy Bill 44-5 (Philadelphia Inquirer article here What is notable about both of these bills is that 1) they are extremely watered down versions of the original energy bills proposed, 2) they required the votes of both Democrats and Republicans to pass, and 3) it happened at both the state and federal levels.

The U.S. Senate bill eliminated the extension of existing production and investment incentives for wind and solar power, dropped the tax increases on Big Oil, and dropped the renewable electricity mandate. The only notable remaining provisions was an increase in biofuel production and increased CAFE limits. In short, the bill became less of a comprehensive reexamination of our energy sources and demands, and more about making nibbling changes at the edges.

In Pennsylvania, Governor Ed Rendell had originally proposed a bill which included an $850 million Energy Independence Fund, among other provisions. The bill which passed the Senate provided only $250 million, and provided $25 million subsidy to help utilities comply with mercury regulations. It provides only $5 million for consumer energy efficiency assistance.

What the US and Pennsylvania Energy Bills demonstrate is a remarkable lack of political will. I would have hoped that after the war in Iraq, a scientific onslaught of global warming evidence, higher gas prices, a Democratic Congress, increased awareness of environmental and energy issues and a ridiculously low presidential approval rating that the lawmakers would have the political will to make real change on energy issues. But apparently the time has not yet come.

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