A Modest Energy Bill Is Better Than None
House Republicans and Senate Democrats are impeding much-needed legislation
It seems every elected official in Washington has found a different shortcoming in the energy bill before the Senate, which would be the first overhaul of energy policy since 2007. There’s a term for this kind of imperfection: It’s called legislation.
In fairness, members of Congress may have forgotten what actual legislating is like; there’s been so little of it in recent years. And this bill is hardly the kind of comprehensive reform the U.S. needs. But it’s a start, and Democrats (in the Senate) and Republicans (in the House) need to get on with it.
The bill, which has bipartisan support on the Senate energy committee, would speed the review of natural gas export terminals; ease the way for hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass power projects; better protect the electricity grid; permanently authorize a conservation fund; boost funding for research; and increase efficiency standards for federal buildings.
Could it have done more? Of course. The U.S. needs to reduce the amount of ethanol that’s added to the nation’s gasoline supply, for example, and lower subsidies for both renewable and fossil fuels so they compete on something closer to a level playing field. And an energy bill would be a logical place to include the most effective energy policy of all: a carbon tax.
Senate Democrats blocked a Feb. 4 vote on the bill, on the grounds that it did nothing to help residents of Flint, Mich., get clean water. House Republicans, meanwhile, are focused on including something that would ensure a presidential veto.
There’s a difference between honest disagreements over what to include in a bill and blatant attempts to make legislation unpalatable to the other side. Senate Democrats should be willing to use another vehicle to provide (badly needed) assistance to Flint. House Republicans should realize that passing basic energy legislation that they essentially agree with is superior to passing nothing at all. <BW>