Tuesday, May 5, 2009

They Can't Even Agree On What to Call It

President Obama held an hour long meeting with Congressional Democrats Tuesday to discuss the lack of progress of energy and climate change policy legislation through the Henry Waxman's House Energy and Commerce Committee. Variously styled as "clean energy," "global warming" and "climate change" legislation, Obama and Waxman want a bill marked up and out of the Committee to the House floor by Memorial Day, expecting that such a calendar will permit Senate, Conference Committee and final floor action so Obama can sign the bill before the end of this year. Maybe they're all trying to accomplish too much in a single piece of legislation.

Representative John Dingell of Michigan says differences over the "cash for clunkers" provisions of the legislation have been worked out, but he declined to provide details, saving up the chips against possible trade offs on other controversial provisions. Still being fought along regional lines are battles over carbon credit cap and trade provisions, whether the carbon footprint of corn based ethanol fuels must take into consideration rain forest destruction the world over for cropland creation, moves to amend the 2007 renewable fuel mandate of 36 billion gallons by 2022, a 50% emission reduction requirement for biodiesel oil, a 60% emission reduction requirement for cellulosic ethanol fuels, renewable electric power mandates, the potential for investment in "clean coal" technology, and whether nuclear power plants are or are not producing "renewable energy." And, routing of new transmission lines for wind, solar and hydroelectric generated power remains yet another bureaucratic battleground.

Meanwhile, Democrat Congressman Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, who isn't even on the Energy and Commerce Committee, along with a gaggle of Republican Congressmen, is offering alternative energy policy legislation to permit oil and gas drilling in federal waters as close as 20 miles offshore, with revenue sharing 10% to the U. S. Treasury, 20% to pay for renewable energy development, 10% for clean coal technology, and 2% for low income energy assistance. Other requirements involve federal fleet purchase of hybrid vehicles and other advanced transportation technology initiatives.

So, while our esteemed government delegates duke it out over energy policy, no one is designing or building the new power generation facilities and transmission lines to deliver much needed electric power to the cities, towns and rural areas which need it to avoid another summer of brownouts and blackouts, and skilled electricians sit in line on benches in the union halls waiting for such projects to ramp up.
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