June 12, 2007

Is Energy Reform Finally Coming?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) spoke yesterday at the Center for American Progress about the goals of bill S. 1419, an extensive piece of energy legislation which is scheduled for debate this week in the Senate. He cited our “addiction to oil” as causing a “three-pronged crisis: threatening our economy, threatening our national security, and threatening our environment” and made it clear he felt that President Bush was not doing enough of the right things to combat the problem. He harshly condemned Bush for allowing working families to face doubling energy prices, buying oil from other countries that are unstable and antagonistic, and for failing to acknowledge the perils of global warming.

Reid then went on to describe the steps the bill would take to amend such societal ills. The bill would set new green standards for federal buildings, raise CAFE standards for new cars and trucks to 35 mpg by 2020, reduce crude oil consumption by 10 percent over 15 years by producing renewable fuels, and set new energy efficiency standards. It also plans to punish companies that price gouge, provides research funds for carbon sequestration programs, and seeks to improve relations with worldwide energy partners.

Reid was noticeably unspecific in his brief speech as to exactly what types of policies would be created or amended to accomplish such tasks. The Energy Tax Act of 2005 sought to remedy our energy problems through a series of tax incentives and breaks. Unfortunately, the oil and coal industries were given tax incentives to produce at the same time credits and breaks were introduced for consumers practicing energy efficiency, two goals at odds with each other. Reid seemed determined this time around not to allow Big Oil companies to receive any more privileged treatment after seeing their profits continue to increase the past year at the expense of everyday citizens.

Reid made only a passing mention of tax incentives which may be a sign of real progress. The idea of raising CAFE standards to a target mpg is a concrete action plan that will not allow special treatment or incentives, car companies will just have to do it. Setting other legal standards for green building and energy efficiency in certain products would be equally as concrete and easily enforceable. Reid also did not mention a possible cost the bill would entail.

Reid seems to have high hopes and expectations for this bill and faith in the ingenuity of our society to solve complex problems. Stay tuned this week to see how the bill fares in debates.


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