July 30, 2005
The Energy Bill - One Good Thing and Many Bad
By: Rowan Wolf
The Senate has passed the "Energy Bill," and it certainly raises a number of concerns. However, drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge was removed from the bill. My guess is that fighting against drilling in ANWR is going to be like fighting to maintain a woman's right to control her own body - endless and constantly under assault. However, we can take a small breath over averting disaster this time. On the other hand, the people, the nation, and the environment are not big winners in the legislation.
Remember the Supreme Court's ruling on eminent domain? (The ruling allowed governments to declare eminent domain on private property for commercial development purposes.) The ruling was decried in by legislators, but there wasn't a peep out of them if allowing power companies into the eminent domain feed trough. The new bill clears the way for power companies access to transmission line pathways.
As noted in Washington Post article:
"The bill exempts oil and gas industries from some clean-water laws, streamlines permits for oil wells and power lines on public lands, and helps the hydropower industry appeal environmental restrictions. One obscure provision would repeal a Depression-era law that has prevented consolidation of public utilities, potentially transforming the nation's electricity markets.
It also includes an estimated $85 billion worth of subsidies and tax breaks for most forms of energy -- including oil and gas, "clean coal," ethanol, electricity, and solar and wind power. The nuclear industry got subsidies for research, waste reprocessing, construction, operation and even decommission. The petroleum industry got new incentives to drill in the Gulf of Mexico -- as if $60-a-barrel oil wasn't enough of an incentive. The already-subsidized ethanol industry got a federal mandate that will nearly double its output by 2012 -- as well as new subsidies to develop ethanol from other sources."
The bill also removes oil and gas companies from complying with the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Water Acts, and "streamlines" the permits for drilling on public land.
The repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 is a boondoggle in the making. It allows utility companies to own other utility companies (as well as other businesses) and sets the stage for merger mania in the public utility arena. The Enron debacle may end up looking like small time theft when this legislation plays out.
Senator Russ Feingold (Wisconsin) argued against the bill, and provided some interesting numbers for consideration:
"The Congressional Budget Office estimates that enactment will increase direct spending by $2.2 billion between 2006 and 2010 and by $1.6 billion between 2006 and 2015. Additionally, the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that this bill will reduce revenues by $7.9 billion between 2005 and 2010 and by $12.3 billion from 2005-2015. Plus, on top of the direct spending, the conference report authorizes more than $66 billion in federal spending, according to the watchdog groups National Taxpayers Union, Taxpayers for Common Sense, and Citizens Against Government Waste."
If the purpose of the "energy bill" is to reduce dependence on "foreign" oil and develop sustainable fuel practices, then it is a major disaster. Big energy wins pretty much across the board, (but oil companies also did not win protection from MTBE suits). However, doing those things would require changes beyond the energy bill. Two issues are important hear. First is the reality of what happens to oil pumped in the U.S., and second the strategy of energy control.
Oil that is pumped in the United States does not go to the United States. It goes into the global oil "pot." The U.S. then purchases back out of the "pot." It is a similar arrangement to the national power grid system. Therefore, U.S. oil does not reduce our dependence on "foreign" oil as it is all "foreign" oil. The energy grid essentially works the same way. Power generated goes into the grid and consumers by back from the grid. So much for energy (or oil) independence.
The second issue is the larger issue. Big oil (and energy companies) are not getting their way simply because of legislators paying back PAC donations. The real threat of alternative energy is if it gets in the hands of the people. Then the people are free of the control and influence of the corporate elite. Way back in the 1970's some brilliant person noted that solar power wouldn't get funded because you couldn't put a meter on the sun. Money that is going into "alternative" energy is largely going to the "big boys." The funding allows them to maintain a hegemony on energy. Since we are dependent on that energy, we remain dependent on them. Energy alternatives in the hands of the people presents a major threat to that hegemony.
This is why big money goes to energy companies (including agricultural companies for producing ethanol), and into "nuclear energy" (which is supposed to save us). The emphasis is definitely on shifting our energy "security" into the deep pockets, and further and further away from the hands of the people. That is also why conservation is downplayed as any kind of solution to our problems. IT is kind of like creating a debt situation. Consumers are told to spend spend spend, and to do so, borrow borrow borrow. Then one's economic power is in the hands of creditors. Likewise, if you can get people to consume more energy (oil, gas, and electric) than we can produce on our own (or collectively) then our survival is essentially in their hands. This is also true in the most critical areas of our lives - water and food.
When the control of basic survival is beyond the control of the people, you control the people.
I am an award-winning journalist and columnist who recently announced the "Ruminations on America" project. I'm looking for essays from coast to coast that encompass all perspectives on the current state of the union and true American core values. The guidelines are available on my blog, Ruminations on America
Posted by: Rita J. King at July 30, 2005 11:10 AM
I was so distressed to see that this energy bill passed, despite avid lobbying against it by nearly every organization near and dear to my heart.
I guess the corporate stranglehold and ostrich (head in the sand) mentality of a good portion of Americans prevails again.
I am disheartened ...
Posted by: Pamela at July 30, 2005 4:34 PM