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September 14, 2005

Fill 'er Up: The Energy Bill and a Renewed Crisis

Andrew Defeo

      Early this August, a standoff lasting over a decade in Congress finally came to an end with the signing of a new energy bill. Promoters of the plan promise that it will provide a diverse mix of fuels, new jobs, cleaner burning coal and the next generation of nuclear reactors. Just before signing the $12.3 billion bill into law, President Bush s gave a positive message, "I'm confident that one day Americans will look back on this bill as a vital step toward a more secure and more prosperous nation that is less dependent on foreign sources of energy."

      The main focus of the bill is directed towards tax breaks. These breaks, amounting to $14.5 billion, will benefit producers of oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear power and include smaller incentives for consumers who use cleaner-burning fuels produced in this country. It seems this bill is great for everyone: more money for safer more reliable forms of energy.

      In reality, however, this bill will do little to alleviate any of our present problems, so don't expect any change back at the pumps. Some amendments of the bill in fact could make things worse. This bill, for instance, exempts oil and gas industries from some clean-water laws. The same companies are also exempt from Safe Drinking Water Act requirements when they inject fluids—including some carcinogens—into the earth at high pressure.

      The Nation Resources Defense Council made a statement after the bill was finalized by Congress encompassing the feelings of various environmental agencies: "After five years, the U.S. Congress has crafted an energy bill that fails to reduce America's dependence on oil, fails to address the threat of global warming, fails to make any new investments in clean energy, and by the President's own admission, fails to help consumers at the gas pump."

      The bill not only lacks any immediate response to a growing energy crisis, but it cripples any previous legislation in support of a cleaner environment. Just days earlier, California adopted the nation's first greenhouse gas emission standards for automobiles. The state legislature declared that global warming was a matter of increasing concern for public health and environment in the state. But with the loopholes that the federal government is creating for major oil corporations, who will ensure that such state legislation will remain intact?

Front Page (September 14, 2005)

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