Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Profile in Cowardice

Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Profile in Cowardice

Article excerpt

While the planet burns, Washington fiddles.

Each day brings fresh evidence of how humanity's reckless carbon consumption fuels atmospheric changes. Europe experienced a particularly bizarre summer, as erratic weather simultaneously brought a heat wave to the Balkans and floods to Britain. Climate models predict that in coming decades wet regions will get wetter and dry regions will suffer more droughts. A new study suggests that climate change will even make ocean waves travel faster (see "Temperature Gauge," page 23).

Yet the US Congress appears unable to adequately address the crisis. To reduce carbon emissions will require sweeping changes in how we produce the energy that powers our lives. Given that fact, Congress's recent energy legislation is a disappointment. When it comes to reforming our energy system, the Capitol has been a profile in cowardice.

The energy bills passed by the Senate in July and the House in August are certainly improvements over what Republicans approved in 2005. The Senate version calls for a 40 percent increase in automobile fuel economy by 2020. In the House, legislators passed a "renewable energy standard" that requires utilities to produce 15 percent of their electricity from green sources by 2020.

But muscling from the auto manufacturers prevented the House from following the Senate's lead on car and truck rules. Similarly, the Senate did not pass a renewable energy standard because of pressure from the utility corporations. …

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