Columnist bemoans the anti-climate change energy bill
Congress will soon send a new energy bill to President Obama. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, announced on April 20 the 85-12 passage of the Senate’s bill, the “Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016.”
Even though the bill contains provisions to boost renewable energy such as solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal, it is largely designed to push America to energy independence through oil and natural gas production.
This bill is the first update on energy legislation since the 2005 and 2007 energy bills were passed. America’s energy landscape has changed considerably in the past decade with the boom in oil and natural gas production. America is getting closer to being the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas due to the increased use of fracking technology.
There are major negative aspects of this bill. One is speeding the federal approval of projects to build export facilities to ship liquefied natural gas to Europe and Asia, where natural gas prices are higher than in the U.S. Overproduction of natural gas in the U.S. has brought the price to lower market levels. Another is the encouragement of clean-coal technology. This technology was proven to be unsuccessful several years ago. There is no such thing as clean coal.
Another part of this bill that has grave consequences is developing advanced nuclear technologies. We already have the storage dilemma of spent nuclear waste.
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are to be commended for aggressively pushing the Paris Climate Change Agreement, but there are many contradictions in Obama’s environmental policies.
Secretary Kerry signed the actual document combating climate change on Earth Day, April 22. This headline from a Los Angeles Times story on Earth Day sums up our government’s environmental policy: “Obama scores triumph with Paris pact, but his environmental agenda faces obstacles at home.”
Here is a quote that confirms this: “In a working paper released this month, experts at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University found ‘major inconsistencies’ in how federal agencies address climate change. The contradiction in Obama’s environment policies create the inconsistencies.
Here are a few of the contradictions in the Obama environmental policy: Coal companies in the U.S. want to expand production and ship it to China. Exporting liquefied natural gas overseas means more natural gas drilling and more fracking. Even though Obama backed off drilling in the Atlantic Ocean for now, he is still allowing drilling in the Arctic region. More drilling and more fracking means more pollution and more greenhouse gases. Increased fracking could cause even more earthquakes. I’m just scratching the surface.
There are further contradictions. The Department of Energy, the EPA and the Department of Interior need major housecleaning before they can begin to address the goals in the Paris agreement. Most of the agency directors and the employees are pro-fossil fuel people or former energy company executives and scientists. Very little has changed since President G.W. Bush’s administration.
Obama faces further uphill battles on climate change policy from the powerful fossil fuel lobby. According to Oxfam International, the fossil fuel lobby spent $160 million influencing Congress in 2013. Oxfam also revealed that the fossil fuel industry received around $1.9 trillion in subsidies that year. It is certain that these numbers increased during the past three years.
Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner voted in favor of the new energy bill. According to Oil Change International website, Sen. Bennet has received $307,636 in campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry in recent years. Sen. Gardner has received a whopping $1,473,769 in campaign donations from fossil fuels in recent years as well.
The fossil fuel lobby spent $721 million electing Republicans to Congress in the 2014 elections, according to the Center for American Progress. As you can see, the fossil fuel industry will keep many members of Congress locked into the dark ages of fossil fuels for a long time.
The passage of this new energy bill clearly represents a major anti-climate change scenario. The best climate change policy is to leave fossil fuels in the ground. Write, call or e-mail President Obama and tell him to veto the new energy bill. We all need to work very hard to save Mother Earth. This is my belated Earth Day message and my view from Main Street America.
Randy Fricke is an environmental advocate and political activist. He is the author of “If I Were President/Saving Main Street America.” Fricke lives in New Castle.
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