A Mod­est En­ergy Bill Is Bet­ter Than None

House Repub­li­cans and Se­nate Democrats are im­ped­ing much-needed leg­is­la­tion

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Bloomberg View -

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>

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