Energy Bill or Dog’s Breakfast?

By September 17, 2008Energy, Global Warming

One of the recurring complaints from opponents of the House leadership’s energy legislation during yesterday’s debate was that H.R. 6899 was a 290-page bill first made public at 9:45 p.m. the evening before the vote.

And there does indeed seem to be a lot of provisions that appeal to this or that constituency in order to win a few votes but that hardly address the supply-and-demand imbalance that has helped make energy so expensive.

The most obvious example of this extraneousness was Section 826, “Restructuring of New York Liberty Zone Tax Credits,” a provision that prompted a (defeated) budget challenge for being an improper earmark.

But there were many other examples of the legislation wandering off course. Like…

SEC. 306. CAPITAL COST OF CONTRACTING VANPOOL PILOT PROGRAM.

(a) Establishment- The Secretary of Transportation shall establish and implement a pilot program to carry out vanpool demonstration projects in not more than 3 urbanized areas and not more than 2 other than urbanized areas.

Federal dollars for a vanpool demonstration in, where, rural Maine? Memphis?

Or …

SEC. 624. GREEN BANKING CENTERS.

 (a) Insured Depository Institutions- Section 8 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (12 U.S.C. 1818) is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:

 `(x) `Green Banking’ Centers- 

    `(1) IN GENERAL- The Federal banking agencies shall prescribe guidelines encouraging the establishment and maintenance of `green banking’ centers by insured depository institutions to provide any consumer who seeks information on obtaining a mortgage, home improvement loan, or home equity loan with additional information on–

Glad to see Congress keeping its hand in mortgage finance. Maybe we can have Fannie and Freddie do this as part of their affordable housing mandate.

Or….
SEC. 802. PRODUCTION CREDIT FOR ELECTRICITY PRODUCED FROM MARINE RENEWABLES.
SEC. 815. CARBON AUDIT OF THE TAX CODE.
SEC. 827. TRANSPORTATION FRINGE BENEFIT TO BICYCLE COMMUTERS.

All splendid ideas, we’re sure, and of course the federal government should use a carbon-omitting tax code to encourage bicyclists and vanpoolers to commute to their jobs at wave-energy plants. In fact, we mark today as Constitution Day to celebrate that all-encompassing federal involvement in our daily lives.

Jibes aside, inclusion of these kind of provisions, no matter their individual merits, demonstrates a fundamental unseriousness about energy legislation. Congress has placed extreme and unnecessary limits on the production of domestic energy, raising its cost and making the United States ever more dependent on foreign suppliers of oil and natural gas. Any legislation that does not address that basic policy failure is a  distraction, hardly deserving the title of “energy” bill.

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