Progressive Writers Bloc

Bush Energy Bill

By Carolyn Westmoreland

Hello everyone. Since this will be my first appearance here in the Tule Times I'd like to briefly introduce myself. I've been invited to write for this column occasionally, and I'm excited and pleased to have such an opportunity. I live in Strathmore, and I've recently retired from a health-related profession. I'm concerned, as I'm sure most of you are too, about our environment. In the future I'd like to comment on food and health issues that may be occurring from the failing health of the environment we live in.

Today I'd like to discuss the Energy Bill that was just two votes short of the 60 votes needed to end debate and move on to a final vote. Discussion on this bill will not be brought up again until next year, but it may be as soon as next January.

Information on this Energy bill could fill a good-sized book. So, with limited space here, I will touch on just a few parts of this bill that concern me the most. I have provided links on our web site to good information from several sources.

This $31 Billion dollar bill, also known as the Energy Policy Act of 2003, H.R. 6, was supposed to provide Americans with less dependence on foreign oil, and it was touted to be an overhaul of outdated energy policies.

One thing that irks me is that this bill was crafted behind closed doors. Vice President Dick Cheney and his Energy Task Force spent 71 days in secret negotiations with the Republicans in the House and Senate, completely shutting Democrats out of the process. Democrats were not even given enough time to study the bill before voting on it. It seems to me that an energy bill, a bill that will have an impact on everyone living in the US, and all over our planet for that matter, should have been put together with input from all quarters. Environmental scientists should have been sitting at the table as well as members of the energy industry. In all of my reading I can not find any indication that this happened.

What came out from behind those closed doors is incredible. We see $300 million going toward renewable energy production incentives for solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and other renewables. But this same bill proposes $600 million a year for the Department of Energy's fossil fuel program for coal based research, and $1.8 billion for the Secretary of Energy to carry out the Clean Coal Power Initiative. It mandates that at least 60% of the $1.8 billion in funding will be used for projects on coal based technology that meets stringent environmental performance standards. But that leaves 40% of the coal technology being funded without the performance standards applied. This is important because mercury is released when coal is burned to produce power. According to the EPA mercury can permanently damage or fatally injure the brain and kidneys. Burning coal and using mercury in manufacturing have increased toxic levels in the atmosphere, soil, our oceans, lakes and rivers. Have you seen the mercury warnings regarding the consumption of fish? Most human beings are walking around right now with mercury in their systems.

Why did our administration just put a token amount into clean alternatives, fail to address global warming at all, and leave us more than ever committed to a fossil fuel economy?

What I've noted above is just one, very small, example of what this Energy Bill contains.

What I haven't mentioned are some of the following:

1. Over $30 billion in tax breaks and subsidies for energy special interests.
2. Subsidies for the nuclear industry.
3. A lawsuit shield protecting producers of the toxic fuel additive, MTBE, from liability lawsuits, forcing taxpayers to pick up an estimated $29 billion to clean up contaminated groundwater. (MTBE is water soluable, so it easily gets into ground water and from there into our food. It has recently been found in leafy green vegetables grown here in CA.)

It is not too late to send letters to the House and Senate regarding this bill. They need to hear how voters feel after reading about what is in this bill and what has been left out.

If you have a computer, please visit progressivewritersbloc.com and follow the links to more in-depth information.

See, in particular,

http://www.citizen.org/cmep/energy_enviro_nuclear/electricity/energybill/2003/

http://www.lcv.org/news/NewsPrint.cfm?ID=1891&c=10

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