Wednesday :: Jun 22, 2005

Democrats' New Apollo Approach Trumps The GOP's Empty Measures Towards Energy Independence

by Steve

It’s a sad commentary on the energy policy failings of the Bush Administration that in the midst of $60 per barrel oil produced from countries that finance terrorism, and against a backdrop of international clamor for American leadership to curtail global warming, the best that the White House and GOP leadership in Congress can do is call for more nuclear power plants, to pass federal legislation that is against states’ rights, and to ramrod over Democratic opposition an energy bill that does little to reduce consumption and continues failed voluntary policies on global warming that even GE and other large companies find laughable. Yet that is what the Bush Administration and the GOP leadership in Congress have to offer after being in control over four years: proposals that will do nothing to help us achieve energy independence anytime soon, and which will continue to make us the problem rather than the leaders towards a solution on global warming. And this comes after Pete Domenici allowed himself to be bitch slapped by Dick Cheney into abandoning support for anything more than futile voluntary measures to deal with global warming.

By the time George W. Bush leaves office, the United States will have squandered eight critical years in the fight against global warming, and this country will be more vulnerable to economic terrorism due to our increasing dependence on Persian Gulf oil when Bush leaves office than when he came in. In fact, the only winners due to this catastrophic failure of leadership will be Big Oil and their stockholders.

Bush’s failure to lead the country in the aftermath of 9/11 towards a diversified national energy policy that would also slow global warming and increase our national security led even conservatives in his own party to begin a bipartisan effort seeking more domestic sources of energy as a matter of national security. One effort called Set America Free, is a front group for Reagan-era conservatives ensconced in an organization called the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, which to its credit plainly lays out the true costs to this nation for depending too much on foreign oil and the cost of the tax breaks and other inducements that are provided year in and year out to Big Oil. But this group, while calling for a reduction in consumption of oil also downplays conservation and calls for diversification into new domestic fuels and an increased use of nuclear and clean coal.

Another more bipartisan group called the Energy Future Coalition comprised of business, labor, and environmental groups is also working together on energy solutions that can reduce our dependence on foreign oil and diversify energy sources both here and overseas. But it is interesting to note that back in March, this group had several Reagan-Bush I national security big foots as signatories on a letter to Bush prodding him to do more towards energy independence, but several of these conservatives have since moved over to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, perhaps signaling the more conservative and pro-mining and pro-nuclear bent of the newly formed group.

There have been those in Congress that want to move away from the Bush/Cheney gridlock caused by the “drill-drill-drill” approach, and are moving ahead with their own initiatives, such as the “economy wide cap-and-trade “Climate Stewardship Act,” which has active and bipartisan support from the likes of Joe Lieberman and John McCain in the Senate, and Republican Wayne Gilchrest and Democrat John Olver in the House. Even Chuck Hagel, eyeing a run for the White House in 2008 has come out with his own bill to deal with global warming, that while opposing the cap-and-trade approach favored by McCain and Lieberman would nonetheless focus on government assisted development of clean energy technologies and sharing that technology with the developing world. But the rather limited Hagel approach seems to be more in favor than what McCain and Lieberman are pursuing, and Pete Domenici has even been arm-twisted by the White House late last week to drop anything of substance from the bill on global warming.

None of these approaches seem very ambitious, comprehensive, or more than simply piecemeal approaches at a time when much more is needed. Democrats may now finally have a comprehensive and ambitious proposal to get behind, a proposal built upon an initiative that has been getting some buzz over the last several years. I’m talking about the New Apollo Energy Project, which was introduced as Democratic legislation in the House of Representatives two weeks ago by Washington representative Jay Inslee and over a dozen Democratic co-sponsors as the New Apollo Energy Act.

A summary of New Apollo from Inslee’s office is as follows:

Key features of the New Apollo Energy Act:

*Clean Energy: New Apollo provides $49 billion in government loan guarantees for the construction of clean-energy generation facilities that will produce power from wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, oceans, coal with carbon-sequestration technology, and other sources. The legislation also commits $10.5 billion to research-and-development and investment tax credits for clean energy-producing operations. In addition, it includes a 10-year extension of the current tax credit for electricity generated from clean sources.

* Oil Savings: The boosts for clean energy and efficiency will make it possible to meet New Apollo's call for notable reductions in daily domestic oil consumption -- cuts of 600,000 barrels a day by 2010, 1,700,000 barrels by 2015, and 3,000,000 barrels by 2020. These numbers are estimates of the amount of oil the United States would soon be importing daily from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the entire Middle East, respectively, without a change in current policy.

* Fuel Efficiency: The best way to generate energy is to not waste it, so New Apollo includes incentives for American consumers to drive fuel-efficient vehicles, including tax credits for the purchase of hybrid, alternative-fuel, low-emission advanced diesel, and fuel-cell vehicles. It also provides $11.5 billion in tax credits for the automotive and aerospace industries to develop new fuel efficient automobiles and planes, retool existing plants, and construct new plants to manufacture energy efficient vehicles.

* Global Warming and Greenhouse Gas Emissions: New Apollo enacts a proposal similar to the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act by capping our emissions of greenhouse gases while allowing companies to purchase and trade credits among themselves to ensure the most cost-effective reductions, and funding research to help industries make the shift to cleaner operations. The bill targets one of the biggest greenhouse-gas offenders -- coal -- by providing $7 billion in loan guarantees for the development of clean coal power plants.

* Clean Energy Jobs: New Apollo will close the existing technology gap with foreign competitors by investing billions of dollars in new federal research into advanced clean technologies, and creating a government-funded risk pool to help struggling start-up clean-energy companies commercialize their products. One study by the Apollo Alliance has found that a substantial federal commitment to clean energy could yield up to 3.3 million jobs nationally.

* Renewable Portfolio: New Apollo contains a Renewable Portfolio Standard requiring all utilities, by 2021, to produce 10 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources.

* Energy Transmission: New Apollo creates national net-metering and interconnection standards that allow homeowners who generate clean energy to reduce their energy bills by feeding surplus electricity back into the grid. New Apollo additionally increases regulatory oversight of energy trading markets, which was a problem during Enron's manipulation of the West Coast energy crisis.

* Does not increase the deficit: New Apollo is revenue neutral, and pays for its provisions by closing abusive corporate tax shelters and loopholes, and through auctioning off some of the allowances under the carbon dioxide trading program.

The New Apollo Energy Act has the support of 15 House Democrats:

Jay Inslee (WA)
Rush Holt (NJ)
Chris Van Hollen (MD)
Steve Israel (NY)
Mike Honda (CA)
Jim McDermott (WA)
Rick Larsen (WA)
Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL)
Jan Schakowsky (IL)
James Langevin (RI)
Raul Grijalva (AZ)
Rahm Emanuel (IL)
Tammy Baldwin (WI)
George Miller (CA)
Adam Smith (WA)

Sure, Pete Domenici and others in the GOP leadership will pat themselves on the back for getting their arms twisted and passing something this year that in truth does nothing to address global warming or make us energy independent. The GOP's efforts are all a sham.

Democrats need to point out between now and the 2006 midterms that after five years of failed GOP leadership, there is a better way to make real progress towards improving our national security and slowing global warming.

Steve :: 11:16 AM :: Comments (19) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!