Urge Congress to pass energy bill

Posted Sept. 30, 2010, at 12:34 a.m.
This artwork by Kevin Kreneck relates to U.S. oil consumption and the need for a comprehensive energy policy
This artwork by Kevin Kreneck relates to U.S. oil consumption and the need for a comprehensive energy policy

What is this November’s election about, anyway?

The Republican Party, and especially its self-styled tea party wing, would have voters believe that it’s about solving the problems of our economy by shrinking government and thereby providing opportunities for the private sector to restore prosperity. But just two years ago, we, the voters, overwhelmingly rejected Republicans whose deregulation policies, beginning with Ronald Reagan, had led to the financial calamities on Wall Street and had thrown the nation’s economy into disarray.

Instead, we, the voters, chose a Democratic president, Democratic members of Congress, and Democratic state officials, whose approach was summarized in the phrase “Yes, we can!” We can, what? We can use the tools of government, working with the private sector, both for-profit and nonprofit, to solve problems.

In the past two years, several major pieces of federal legislation have been passed to address the very real problems that our society faces. The goals of these bills include expanding health care coverage while reining in health care costs and limiting abuses, stimulating employment and re-invigorating the economy and regulating the banks to curb further abuses and protect consumers.

Maine laws were enacted to address these same concerns.

These were all real problems for which pragmatic solutions were needed. It will take time to fully implement these laws, but a start has been made. Democrats have led in passing these federal laws. With rare exceptions, Republicans have been vocal in their public opposition to changing outdated policies and obstructionist whenever congressional rules have allowed them opportunities to do so.

Among the legislation on which congressional action is still pending is a bill to change direction on the related issues of energy, employment and the environment. This bill would limit fossil fuel consumption, use a market mechanism to allocate opportunities to use fossil fuels and generate funds to support sustainable energy development. It has been tied up in Congress due primarily to Republican opposition. Yet action now is essential.

We live in a society that is unsustainable with regard to energy consumption. Fossil fuels are finite resources that are increasingly hard to obtain. Coal producers have resorted to removing the tops of Appalachian mountains in the pursuit of coal. Oil producers have drilled for oil in ever-deeper offshore waters, and seek to drill anywhere oil may be found unbalanced by any other considerations.

The rapid consumption of coal and oil threatens to alter the climate of our Earth in ways that are hard to predict in detail, but that threaten life as we have known it. And other nations are leaving us far behind in pursuing opportunities for employment developing sustainable energy resources.

Continued reliance on oil and coal as our dominant sources of energy is not a viable answer. Nor is tying the hands of government. Our government needs to take action to change our energy future, protect our environment and provide jobs producing sustainable energy resources, rather than continuing on our present path until the energy economy of the past collapses.

In Native American cultures, decisions were to be made with consideration to the seventh generation into the future. In today’s rapidly changing world, consideration to the second or third generation would be sufficient. It would certainly be better than the short-term and backward looking orientation that now characterizes most of the Republican Party.

As a new grandfather, I would ask you to consider which candidates in the November election offer pragmatic solutions to real problems that will affect the lives and well-being of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I believe that in most cases, such solutions will be found in the policies and proposals of candi-dates of the Democratic Party.

John Maddaus is an educator who is active in environmental programs.

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