In Sunday's New York Times, Thomas Friedman calls last week's Senate energy bill a baby that "only a lobbyist could love." True, it's the first energy bill to raise fuel efficiency standards in twenty years, but it's still too little, too late. Europe will be at 40 MPG by 2012, China's already at 36 MPG, and this bill only puts us at 35 MPG in 2020. I agree with Friedman. That's just embarrassing.
And Friedman highlights other weaknesses in the bill, as well as the things it's missing - all due to Republican roadblocks. Some examples:
- Senate Republicans stripped the bill of a "proposed national renewable electricity mandate that would have required utilities to produce 15 percent of their power from wind, solar, biomass and other clean-energy sources by 2020."
- Senate Republicans successfully killed a "Democratic proposal to boost taxes on oil and gas companies that would have raised some $32 billion for alternative fuel projects."
- Senate Republicans buried "an effort by Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota to legislate a national reporting ("carbon counter") system to simply measure all sources of greenhouse gas emissions."
What a disaster the Republican party is for this country and the world. I've always contended that Republicans are just plain bad at government, but their approach to this topic - energy and the realities of global warming - is just reckless and dangerous. And it's not just Republicans. In particular, Senators Levin and Stabenow of Michigan - both Democrats - did their best to lower the fuel efficiency standards proposed even further, but were unsuccessful. Friedman blames it all on Washington, and of course, he's absolutely right - the legislators and the lobbyists who fund them are failing this country:
Here is the truth: the core of our energy crisis is in Washington. We have all the technology we need right now to make huge inroads in becoming more energy efficient and energy independent, with drastically lower emissions. We have all the capital we need as well. But because of the unique nature of the energy and climate-change issues — which require incentives and regulations to build alternatives to dirty, but cheap, fossil fuels — you need public policy to connect the energy and capital the right way. That is what has been missing.
The public wants it. But energy policy gets shaped in the halls of Congress — where wily lobbyists, legacy industries and politicians greedy for campaign contributions regularly sell out the country's interests for their own. Only when the public really rises up — as it has finally done against the auto companies — do we even get moderate change.