Political agendas are and have always been about the ‘now,’ the ‘today’ or at most, ‘the next few years.’ Politicians’ pockets are stuffed with opinions on war, to ‘spread democracy,’ or perhaps ‘family values,’ where religious terminology mingles with government jargon. With short-term worries blocking their view, politicians must squint to read the warning signs in the distance that caution planetary climate change. Perhaps politicians hear and ignore the cautions of global warming reports or maybe they are simply unaware of the growing scientific concerns, but regardless, based on recently proposed energy legislation, our tax dollars may continue to fund the same environmentally damaging, and, coincidentally, campaign-funding, energy providers. A covert Republican ‘Task Force,’ led by Dick Cheney, have proposed a 1,300-page energy bill which jumps from tax incentives for oil companies, to drilling in Alaska, to increased security at nuclear power plants. Wind turbines, solar panels, biomass, geothermal energy and other renewable energy resources are briefly and noncommittally glanced at. The 2004 Energy Bill, announced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Pete V. Domenici on Feb. 12, states its objective to “enhance energy conservation and research and development to provide for security and diversity in the energy supply for the American people.” Following the bold mission statement are plans to squeeze out every last drop of oil and relax environmental protection legislation to ease the process. While the current politicians fumble frantically with the remaining oil reserves, hoping to secure one more decade of leisurely transportation and heating for the American people, research dedicated to alternative energy remains financially malnourished. To quote Albert Einstein, “It is impossible to solve a problem with the same methods that caused this problem.” This legislation is the Atkins-diet model of last year’s proposed energy bill who could not squeeze into the little black dress that the Bush Administration hoped to wear for the 2004 Election ball. Now, $17 billion dollars slimmer, the bill is not more, but less attractive to congressional Democrats and a small exclusive group of Republicans. While tax incentives for oil companies remain in the bill, $24 million funding for geothermal research has been delayed. Similarly slashed from the bill is the requirement for electric utilities to produce at least 10 percent of their power from renewable sources such as solar panels, wind turbines or biomass. These types of setbacks are unforgivable and prove our current federal government to be reckless and industry-controlled. We need to investigate alternative energy now before we are faced with a serious energy shortage. A worthy proposal to slash emissions enough to cap the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere has been implemented by several northeastern coalitions. Our federal government has yet to propose such active measures. Meanwhile, scientific evidence already points to global warming, the result of burning fossil fuels, as a current health hazard, citing hundreds of heat-related deaths and growing cases of asthma and other respiratory diseases. These reports are no longer scrutinized as controversial propaganda. By continuing to spew gases into the air we jeopardize the health of our children, and yet, the proposed energy bill emphasizes a stronger oil industry. In addition to rewarding huge incentives to coal and oil companies, and spending tax dollars to further pollute our air, the bill slashes the current Clean Air Act regulations. Companies are currently responsible to reduce emissions by a specific deadline. When this deadline is not met the companies must follow a more rigorous pollution control standard. In Title XIV Section 1143, the bill waives non-complying companies through the door, because they are obviously already under too much pressure as it is and cannot handle the tedious and expensive task of preventing harmful gases from escaping into the atmosphere. Dick Cheney is very sympathetic. And I’m sure his grandchildren will gladly accessorize their outfits with matching respirators. This disappointing attempt at energy legislation highlights the fact that our current leaders lack the vision. Sweden, for example, uses 25 percent renewable energy provided by both offshore wind and wave energy. Germany has recently established the “International Renewable Energy Agency,” and Finland runs on 21 percent hydro-electric and wind produced energy. The United States, however, was the only nation to pull out of the first international environmental agreement, the Kyoto Protocol. Even if our government refuses to participate in a global accord, comprehensive energy legislation has the potential push our society into a much needed energy transition. This bill is not comprehensive. It merely bandages the problem and handicaps current environmental legislation. The 2004 Energy Bill feeds the irrational fossil fuel addiction that both our government and our wasteful Hum-V owners refuse to acknowledge. We must end the mindless consumption of resources and secure funding for alternative energy. We must elect leaders who will have the courage and wisdom to carry us through a difficult evolution away from our dependence on fossil fuels and toward safer, healthier energy sources. Welzer may be reached at bwelzer@campustimes.org.



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Editor’s Note (5/4/24): This article is no longer being updated. For our most up to date coverage, look for articles…