Energy Policy That Makes Sense

Article excerpt


When is a filibuster an opportunity?

When failure by the Senate to cut off debate and vote on a $31 billion energy bill gives members one last chance to govern responsibly.

It won't be easy. The $350 million in tax-exempt bonds for "green" development projects would have to go. That would mean Syracuse, N.Y., wouldn't get its subsidized-soybean-powered mall. And Bossier City, La. - a town virtually awash in casino money - wouldn't get its riverfront development project that includes an "energy-rich Hooters" restaurant. And Iowa wouldn't get its million-gallon aquarium.

Alaskans would have to be told the $18 billion in loans needed to build a natural-gas pipeline would come without federal guarantees of repayment. (As if a project that would deliver that much natural gas to a hungry American market has any real chance to fail.)

In Minnesota, residents would have to be told a coal gasification plant will be built in the state only if private interests step forth to finance it.

The toughest task would fall to senators in the farm states of the Midwest. They would have to tell their gasohol-producing constituents - or at least the board members at Archer-Daniels-Midland and ConAgra - that the federal government no longer will spend billions to drive up the price of gas, drive down the health of engines and prop up an industry that, absent huge subsidies, would fade into obscurity in months.

The same goes for solar, wind, geothermal and biomass power. Billions of dollars in subsidies haven't made them remotely competitive. We have reached the point where they need to stand or fall on their own.

Instead of the grab-bag approach, the two houses of Congress could get together and take this opportunity to switch its focus to strengthening our energy infrastructure, supply and security.

What would this mean? It would mean granting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) power to issue permits for interstate electricity lines in bottleneck areas. This would go a long way toward preventing blackouts such as the one that blackened states from Massachusetts to Ohio last summer.

It would mean keeping the repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act, a New Deal-era law that prohibits power companies from investing in unrelated businesses. …