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Nature: Congress Has Not “Grasped the Scale” of the Energy Problem


The lead editorial in the 19 May issue of Nature, the weekly, international, interdisciplinary journal of science, succinctly takes the US Congress to task on the energy bill currently under consideration.  Access is limited to subscribers; I've cited some of the select bits below.

[...]judging from the version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives last month, none of these [pressing] concerns are being properly addressed by the Congress. For a start, the bill obstinately declines to take seriously the need to cut carbon emissions. It does nothing to contain the demand for oil through the most obvious mechanism, the imposition of modest fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks. And it fails to authorize any substantial revival in energy research spending, which has been steadily run down from its peak in the aftermath of the 1974 energy crisis.

[...]even the Senate seems to lack the will to seriously confront the consequences of the US addiction to oil imports. The bill will provide generous subsidies for clean coal and nuclear-power generation, and less generous ones for renewable energy sources. But in a country where about two-thirds of energy use is for transportation, it seems unlikely to bite the bullet and take steps to reduce oil consumption. The Senate could start to address this by, for example, promoting new cellulose-based biofuels (not to be confused with the existing ethanol programme, which is designed primarily as a subsidy machine for corn farmers.) It could also yet decide to insist on new fuel-efficiency standards.

But many leaders in the Congress seem to prefer to squabble over oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, rather than address the issue of oil consumption. The impression continues to grow that the president and congressional leaders want to win on the Alaska refuge primarily to rile environmentalists, rather than to obtain oil. Oil companies are barely registering an interest, the political and economic costs being so high.

As is usual for legislation of this type, the House bill is laden with goodies for special interests, including some $2 billion for deep gas drilling, subsidies for those keen to build nuclear power stations, and various tax breaks. But even the corporate giveaways—which are valued by some critics at $8 billion over ten years—are paltry by Washington’s standards of profligacy. This is further proof, if any were needed, that political leaders just haven’t grasped the scale of the problem.



This isn't really about cars ... but the proposal of two Senators to halt federal funding of wind farms drove this point further home to me. In Washington, it is politics as usual, and as yet they have no inkling that they are facing an unusual problem.

I hope Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and John Warner (R-VA) get a lot of grief for this ... I mean, for them to actually think that they could introduce such a bill without widespread blowback and derision!

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