One of my favorite bits on Saturday Night Live is entitled “Really?” where the comedians address some issue they view as absurd. I want to suggest they take on the recent legislation being debated in Washington D.C. this week.
The Washington Post reported that “The two-year, $109 billion transportation bill before the Senate has wide, bipartisan support, but has become a magnet for lawmakers’ favorite causes and partisan gamesmanship. Among the amendments batted aside were GOP proposals to bypass Obama’s concerns about the Keystone XL oil pipeline, to delay tougher air pollution standards for industrial boilers and to expand offshore oil drilling….Also defeated was an amendment by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, which would have forced the Environmental Protection Agency to rewrite a rule requiring boiler operators to install modern emissions controls. Boilers are the second-largest source of toxic mercury emissions after coal-fired power plants. Collins said the EPA’s rule would drive some manufacturers out of business. And the Senate turned down an amendment to expand offshore oil drilling even though its sponsor, Sen. David Vitter, D-La., contended it would increase domestic energy supplies and reduce gas prices…The transportation bill itself would overhaul federal transportation programs, including boosting aid to highway and transit programs, streamline some environmental regulations in order to speed up approval of projects and consolidate dozens of programs.”
Now I am not unsympathetic or ignorant to business and economic related issues. I fully understand the impact that environmental regulations and governmental decisions related to energy exploration and development can have on certain industries. However, this type of argument is simply stale because if the government relented every time this argument was made, there would be no environmental regulations. Although, yes Ms. Snowe, I feel bad that some manufacturers will go out of business, I am even more concerned about the mercury contamination and subsequent health implications to communities surrounding these plants that have not installed modern emissions controls. Further, while I understand that building a new pipeline from Canada to the Gulf would create some jobs, the benefits remain unclear. As Johnathan Alter wrote recently in Bloomberg,
“TransCanada underwrote a study by an outfit called the Perryman Group claiming that Keystone XL will create 119,000 total jobs. But according to a report by the Cornell Global Labor Institute, the Perryman study is bogus. It included the vaguely calculated multiplier effects of $1 billion spent for a section of the pipeline in Kansas and Oklahoma that has already been built and isn’t part of the controversial extension. The temporary construction and manufacturing jobs created by the project over two years — estimates range from 2,500 to 20,000, depending on how much of the money is spent in the U.S. — would be welcome, but by themselves they hardly justify approval of the whole thing.”
Alter also claims that the pipeline could lead to a huge increase in oil prices, as opposed to the claim being made by proponents that it will substantially decrease prices (read the full article here:http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-02/keystone-pipe-brings-pain-at-pump-few-jobs-commentary-by-jonathan-alter.html ) .
While I fully understand oil and gas remain critical in terms of the present economy, the absolute lack of discussion and leadership related to renewable energy, or the presentation of new ideas to move us towards a more sustainable energy future, is simply depressing (but not so shocking). If the best we can do is Obama’s hybrid credit (http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/obama-alternative-fuel-cars/2012/03/08/id/431816) which although positive feels like I am living in 2008, then we are in serious trouble.