Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Bold Steps and Big Ideas

Magritte "Manet's Balcony"

It's energy bill time in DC and the lobbyists are circling around the caucus of our barely breathing democracy like a flock of buzzards.

Here is part of the story from NYTs.

Congress Turns to Energy, and Lobbyists Arrive
By Edmund L. Andrews
The New York Times
Tuesday 12 June 2007

Washington - Having tried and failed to overhaul the nation's immigration laws last week, Congress begins what some say is an even more divisive project this week: taming America's thirst for oil.

With gasoline prices hovering near all-time highs, the Senate on Monday began debating a sprawling energy bill that has already kicked off an epic lobbying war by huge industries, some of them in conflict with one another: car companies, oil companies, electric utilities, coal producers and corn farmers, to name a few.

Industry groups have raced to sign up influential lawmakers and are nervously calculating how much regulation they might have to accept from the Democratic majority in Congress.

"This is going to be harder than immigration," said John B. Breaux, a former Democratic senator from Louisiana who is representing Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm that recently took control of the Chrysler Corporation. "This is going to be the mother of all bills. By that I mean, any one portion of it is important enough to affect completion of the whole bill."

Detroit's automakers are lobbying hard against tough fuel economy standards, but they support increased production of ethanol and other alternative fuels.

But Charles W. Stenholm, a former Democratic representative from Texas, is lobbying on behalf of oil producers and cattle farmers against big subsidies for corn-based ethanol.

The Senate bill, as well as a similar measure in the House, would force automakers to increase the fuel economy of their cars and light trucks. It would require a huge expansion of alternative fuels for cars and trucks as well as electric power plants. And it is expected to offer as much as $25 billion in tax breaks over 10 years to promote those fuels.

"Bold steps and big ideas," Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said in a speech on Monday. "The Democratic plan is all about harnessing power: the clear, renewable power that exists literally all around us."

Senate leaders have allotted up to two weeks for debate, but that may not be enough. It took the Republican-controlled Congress four years to pass the last major energy bill, in 2005, and even that measure almost died because of fights over a peripheral issue involving a fuel additive.

This time, Democrats are emphasizing renewable fuels, as opposed to the Republican focus on increased oil production. (clip)

Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, the chairman of the Energy Committee and the Senate bill's main author, has opposed big government support for coal-to-liquid fuels. But House Democrats have already included coal measures in early drafts of their energy bill.

A second fight will be over increased fuel-economy requirements for cars and light trucks. The Senate bill would require that cars, pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles have a combined average mileage of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. The current requirement is 27.5 miles per gallon for cars and 24 miles per gallon for light trucks.

Car manufacturers are fiercely fighting the measure, though they have agreed to the general call for higher fuel-economy requirements. The manufacturers are insisting that light trucks and sport utility vehicles be allowed to meet a lower mileage standard.

House Democrats are bogged down in a major intraparty battle over a related issue. A bill drafted by two Democrats, Representative Rick Boucher of Virginia and Representative John D. Dingell of Michigan, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, would reverse a Supreme Court ruling that directed the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

The draft bill has set off a furor among lawmakers, governors and attorneys general from California and 11 other states that want to impose tough new restrictions on emissions of carbon dioxide.

A third big fight is likely over a section in Mr. Bingaman's bill that would create a "renewable energy standard" for electric utilities by requiring them to produce 15 percent of their power from renewable sources of energy by 2020.

Electric utilities and coal producers are opposed. Senator Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, the ranking Republican on the Energy Committee, is expected to offer a substitute "clean energy" standard that would allow utilities to use nuclear and "clean coal" technologies to meet their requirements. "

Wouldn't it be nice if Bold Steps and Big Ideas really did come out, instead of the dead and watered down ideas that will result from the lobbying frenzy?

How about this instead:

All polluters must pay to place carbon into our atmosphere.

Taxes on working people are rolled back.

We take an oath of no more new coal plants,

No more new nuclear folly.

We move boldly to an advanced civilization that runs on light.


We kiss all the other crap goodby

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Blogger Tom Gray said...

Just a note to let your readers know that the inside word on the Bingaman renewable energy standard is that the vote will be very tight. If you support this concept, the time to weigh in is right now. You can reach any Senator's office through the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Thomas O. Gray
American Wind Energy Association

5:41 PM  
Blogger oZ said...

Thanks Tom.

I made a few small changes to the post late in the evening for readability.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Charlie Loving said...

We have a good idea where the GOP stands on these matters but what of the Democratic candidates. Someone has to hold their feet to the fire.
Coal fire?

4:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why does the phrase "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" keep coming to my mind? It's time to discover a whole new way to float!

7:07 AM  
Blogger Tom Gray said...

This (Bingaman amendment) vote will be taken within the next few hours in the Senate. Regarding Democratic Presidential candidates' positions, you can find out by seeing how they vote.


9:43 AM  

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