Foreign Policy Blogs

"The Economist" on Congress and Energy

This week’s “Economist” has a leader (BritSpeak for editorial) and an article on the state of play in Congress on the energy bills and their relationship to climate change legislation. They are not complimentary.  The editorial, A pale shade of green, is off base in several ways.  I agree with some of what’s being said and find other of it surprisingly naive, or just wrong. I do think the headlong rush to further underwrite corn-derived ethanol is a waste on several fronts, not the least of which in taxpayer dollars. But contrary to the assertion here, the Democrats have not “…shelved any plan for limiting greenhouse emissions.” They seem to me to be, very properly, putting the horse before the cart. First energy, this summer, then climate change legislation in the fall. The editorial takes a further – predictable – swipe at the initiatives to promote renewables and efficiency. These, apparently, ignore and defy “… most of the lessons of economics.” It’s okay, though, for massive subsidies for oil and nuclear? There’s more strangely uninformed “tosh” (to use their expression) here.

The article is more useful: Full of sound and fury. It includes a chart showing elements of the House and Senate legislation as presently constituted. It also hits on the mostly politically driven overemphasis on ethanol from corn, and it gives a pretty good picture overall of a very complicated situation. There are lots of balls in the air and how they’re juggled and where they wind up is still a good question. To get a sense of how much is going on, just on the House side, you can go here – Energy Independence Day Initiative: By Committee, By Bill – to see all the offerings from the committees so far. How Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and the other important jugglers manage things remains to be seen.Now, speaking of all the offerings, David Roberts over at the Huffington Post, has a thoughtful piece on what’s been motivating Big John aka Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Dingell: Dingell Calls our Bluff. I think he’s got a good take on things here. As far as what we’ve got to date that is really positive, he quotes Dingell from his C-Span interview from last week, and there is an array of great stuff, some of which has been noted at the blog here and elsewhere: mandates for residential appliance efficiency, stronger building codes to enhance efficiency, support for a “smart grid,” loan guarantees, more R&D money for batteries, more work on a renewable fuels infrastructure. Roberts very accurately says: “All that stuff kicks ass, and it will all save consumers money.”

There’s a lot more drama left, folks. In the immortal words of Dan Cook: “The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change