16 September 2008

A Little Thing Called Energy

Throughout much of today, C-SPAN has been running the floor debate in the House of Representatives on House Resolution 6899, the Comprehensive American Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act. This bill would, if passed by the House and Senate and signed by the President, commit the United States
to advance the national security interests of the United States by reducing its dependency on oil through renewable and clean, alternative fuel technologies while building a bridge to the future through expanded access to Federal oil and natural gas resources, revising the relationship between the oil and gas industry and the consumers who own those resources and deserve a fair return from the development of publicly owned oil and gas, ending tax subsidies for large oil and gas companies, and facilitating energy efficiencies in the building, housing, and transportation sectors, and for other purposes.
In other words, it provides for expanded alternative energy research and use, including in wind, solar, and biofuel technologies in the effort to move the United States from its current comsumption of foreign oil energy sources (about 70% of out current oil comes from overseas, half of which comes from "unstable" countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia). However, and this is a big problem, the bill does little to address the near term needs of consumers. It provides for expansion of offshore drilling, but only in places where little oil is to be gained anyway. Most of American oil sources are located within 50 miles of the Gulf Coast or up in the near-barren slopes of Alaska. HR 6899 only allows drilling between 50 and 100 miles off the Gulf Coast, and not at all within Alaska. Furthermore, while the bill allows each state to opt into drilling off their coast, those states which will pay for the cost of drilling do not get to participate in something known as revenue sharing, which would help alleviate the costs off the (already overtaxed) states. The bill also allows for environmentalists to sue to stop each drilling site by not providing for a moratorium on frivolous lawsuits with respect to drilling, even 100 miles away from shore. According to Congressman Shadegg (R-AZ03), of the last 100 or so plans for drilling for American oil as allowed by law, every single one has been tied up in the courts for decades with appeals and stall tactics. That means that not one BTU of energy has come from lawful drilling activities in those areas. HR 6899 does not put any emphasis on other alternative energies like "clean coal," oil shale exploration, or nuclear power. Coal has always been America's major natural resource; nowhere else on Earth is coal found in such abundance as here, yet the Democrat bill doesn't choose to include its eco-friendly brother, clean coal, to supplant foreign oil dependence. Nuclear power, which is helping the United Arab Emirates, China, India, and other countries around the world achieve energy independence (I think the statistic was that India is building 17 power plants, China 34, and Dubai is getting one in the UAE), is being shunned by the Democratic majority Congress. They seem to be unaware in 21st century technologies which are allowing for the reprocessing and reuse of previously "spent" nuclear fuel rods, advances in safety at nuclear plants, and the simple fact that nuclear energy is a huge source of power. One chart I saw showed that 25% of the world's tower cranes are stationed on the Arabian peninsula in the Middle East building brand new superstructures. That's all infrastructure that the United States is missing out on! Unfortunately, the people in Congress don't want to compromise on this issue. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic caucus introduced HR 6899 - a 290 page monster of a bill - at 9:45 pm last night and told the Congress that they would be voting on it 24 hours later. There was no thought to asking the Republicans to help write the bill, no time given for the legislation to be looked at by any member of Congress or their staffs, and in the process, the Democrats forced through a piece of legislation that not only disincentivizes states from WANTING to produce energy, it opens up production of energy and natural resources to a slew of frivolous lawsuits which will only postpone getting our dependence off foreign energy, and it completely ignores some very good sources of energy that we, ourselves, can produce right here at home. This is my mini-rant of the day. Feel free to provide your own perspectives on energy policy!

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