Energy bill is evidence of a failing system
The energy bill just passed by Congress starkly illustrates how utterly have self-serving interest groups captured Washington’s political process. After four years of effort, Congress has removed most of the good from an energy bill now designed primarily to dole out pork to the politically connected. The taxpayer goes $14.6 billion deeper in debt over 10 years. Of this, $1.5 billion in new corporate welfare goes to the oil industry, already immensely profitable. North America has 7 percent of the world’s petroleum reserves — and declining. The Middle East has 65 percent. In 1972, the year before the first Arab oil embargo, America imported 28 percent of our oil. Today, we import over 60 percent and rising. The scientific evidence is now overwhelming that the global climate is rapidly changing because we persist in burning dirty fossil fuels. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services calculates that fossil fuel pollution costs our state over $1 billion annually in medical care and shortened life spans. Other advanced industrial nations are leaving the United States behind in development of the clean, abundant energy technologies of the future - and freeing their economies from Middle East oil dependence. Today’s Congress would have cozied up to the hand calculator, patent medicine and telegraph industries and stymied computers, biotechnology and the Internet. The new energy bill forces MTBE cleanup litigation into federal court, depriving victims of state law and state courts to find restitution. The bill preempts state authority over siting of liquefied natural gas terminals and electricity transmission lines. Startlingly, the bill severely weakens export controls on highly enriched uranium, increasing risk of proliferation to rogue and hostile-state nuclear bomb-makers. To their great credit, three of New Hampshire’s four congressmen - Sens. Gregg and Sununu and Congressman Bradley — voted against the energy bill. But it continues to baffle me why only Congressman Bradley supports the Renewable Electricity Standard. The RES would require that 10 percent of electricity be provided from renewable sources by 2020. It would reduce electricity and energy prices, increase U.S. jobs and energy independence and curb emissions of air pollutants and global warming gasses. These overwhelming benefits explain why RES earns support from such a politically diverse group of New Hampshire leaders — from Governor Lynch to Orford’s Tom Thomson, from Executive Councilor Deb Pignatelli to State Senator Peter Bragdon. I have publicly defended Charlie Bass’ efforts to find an MTBE compromise in a Congress that has become a K Street marionette and is unlike the noble world occupied by editorial writers and Bass’ Democratic opponents. But Mr. Bass’ objections to the RES, like Sens. Gregg and Sununu’s, do not compute. He told the Nashua Telegraph’s Kevin Landrigan that he voted against RES because existing hydropower dams were not eligible for the renewable credits. “This would put our wood products industry at a competitive disadvantage and that’s not right,” Bass said. This is precisely opposite to what the forestry industry has been saying to Mr. Bass for years. For those who want America to be an economic and environmental leader in energy, our best option is to keep talking to our delegation and to the presidential candidates who pass through our state. Ask Congressmen Bass and Bradley to co-sponsor the House RES bill, HR 983. Please take every chance you get to ask our present and potential leaders to support and talk about strong clean energy policy. Jim Rubens is an investor, former Republican state senator and former chair of the New Hampshire GOP platform committee. He blogs at NHInsider.com.