Energy Failures

Posted July 27, 2010, at 6:45 p.m.

There is plenty of blame to go around for the failure of a much-needed comprehensive energy bill in the Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid is more concerned about his re-election than legislation to reduce America’s dependence on oil from volatile and hostile parts of the world. Republicans are more interested in defeating Democratic ideas than providing businesses with a predictable energy future. The White House was content to let Democratic leaders craft and shepherd legislation through Congress to deal with energy and climate change and never got involved, even when it was clear that direction and support were needed.

The result was last week’s announcement from Sen. Reid that he was dropping a comprehensive energy bill from the Senate agenda this year because he didn’t have the votes to pass it. While this technically may be true, it is not even clear what bill the majority leader tried to get 60 votes for if any.

Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., had put together a bill that would cap carbon emissions and set up a trading system. Republican Lindsey Graham had been working with the pair but dropped out in the spring when Sen. Reid said he wanted to work on immigration reform ahead of climate legislation.

There are good political reasons for Harry Reid to want to focus attention on immigration. He is in a tough race against Republican, and Tea Party-backed Sharron Angle. By framing his immigration stance as more welcoming than Ms. Angle’s — she touted Arizona’s new anti-immigration law at an appearance this weekend — Sen. Reid hopes he will win a big share of Nevada’s Hispanic votes.

Congress needs to fix the country’s broken immigration system, but reducing the United States’ dangerous reliance on imported oil and cutting emissions that contribute to climate change are too important to fall victim to politics.

There are still ways forward. Sen. Olympia Snowe proposed legislation, modeled on the Northeast’s successful Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, to reduce emissions from power plants. Sen. Susan Collins worked with Democrat Maria Cantwell of Washington on a bill that would cap emissions and set up a dividend system to return some of the money from the sale of emissions credits to consumers to help offset the costs of switching to clean, more efficient energy technology.

More important, there are countless compelling reasons for a more predictable, less fossil-fuel driven national energy policy.

A group of retired military officers, the military advisory board of CAN, reported that the current U.S. energy situation is a major threat to national security. This is primarily because we must import so much oil — paying $1 billion a day for it — often from regimes that are hostile to the U.S. The governments in Venezuela and Russia, for example, are highly dependent on oil revenues for their military funding and political support. Iran uses much of the tens of billions of dollars it receives each year to support terrorist organizations in the Middle East.

An energy policy that encouraged conservation and more reliance on domestic energy sources would also keep more American money at home, boosting our economy.

By kicking the issue down the road, the Senate and White House have condemned the U.S. to a dangerous and costly energy policy that will be a drag on the economy and threatens the health of U.S. and global citizens.

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