Progressive Groups: Take a Step Back and Think About This

by: Alex Krogh-Grabbe

Wed Aug 20, 2008 at 01:47

(cross-posted at DailyKos)

We're all tired of capitulation. We all think offshore drilling is pretty darn evil. But are we willing to give up a crack at something we need for the hubris of those reasons?

Let's talk about the New Energy Reform Act of 2008. If you haven't been paying attention, that's the name of the proposed energy bill sponsored by the "Group of 10" Senators in order to address all those concerns everyone has about energy. There are certainly a good bushel of bad apple policies in the bill, but some pretty awesome oranges in there too that might make the bill worthwhile. Let's take a look at both, plus some context, in the extended entry.

Alex Krogh-Grabbe :: Progressive Groups: Take a Step Back and Think About This
First of all, the ten senators bringing this bill to light are:

  • Saxby Chambliss (R - GA)
  • Bob Corker (R - TN)
  • Lindsey Graham (R - SC)
  • Johnny Isakson (R - GA)
  • John Thune (R - SD)
  • Kent Conrad (D - ND)
  • Mary Landrieu (D - LA)
  • Blanche Lincoln (D - AR)
  • Ben Nelson (D - NE)
  • Mark Pryor (D - AR)

So, essentially, that's 5 of the 11 most conservative Democrats in the Senate, along with a slightly wider spread of Republicans, averaging slightly redder than the middle of the party in terms of conservatism. So these are pretty conservative folks proposing this compromise bill.

The two highest profile provisions of the bill are:

  • opening up the Gulf of Mexico and the East Coast up to Virginia to drilling, but only minimum 50 miles offshore and with the approval of the Defense Det.
  • extending production tax credits for renewable energy until 2012 (that's 4 years; previous extensions have been really annoying at just one year)

That's one extremely negative point and one extremely positive point from a progressive perspective. Offshore drilling will not only create enormous environmental risks, but it will do virtually nothing to affect gas prices or oil consumption in general. Extending the renewables PTC is exactly what we've needed and been working toward for at least a couple months or years now.

Other provisions, masterfully outlined by Joe Romm at Climate Progress include:

  • radically decreasing subsidies/tax loopholes for oil and gas producers
  • $7.5 bil each for R&D toward better batteries and transitioning to cleaner car manufacturing
  • tax incentives for consumers to purchase non-petro-fueled cars or retrofit old ones to run on other things
  • another consumer tax incentive for consumers to buy more efficient cars, including a specific hybrid incentive
  • more R&D out the wazoo for more vehicle efficiency and flex-fuels
  • "Expanding transmission capacity for power from renewable sources": sounds like proto-smart grid stuff to me
  • new institutionalized funding for weatherization
  • funding for coal-to-liquids
  • funding for nuclear R&D
  • incentives for CO2 sequestration

Whew. That's a lot more really good stuff and a few more really bad things at the end there.

Some intelligent folks talk up a no-holds-barred, do-everything approach for transitioning to a new energy economy, and thus are willing to talk about CTL, nuclear, and CCS (that's Coal-To-Liquid and Carbon Capture and Sequestration). Personally, I think those three points are the worst ideas ever. Yes, even worse than the offshore drilling point.

The bill actually just puts the decision to allow offshore drilling into the hands of the states, and, to parrot Romm, the only state that is really gung-ho about drilling (Virginia), is likely to be vetoed or at least critically considered by the Defense Dept. due to military operations of the coast there. Other states just aren't that excited about having oil rigs go up that close to their beaches. NIMBYism at its best.

So, is a host of excellent environmental measures worth a little funding for horrible stuff and a big capitulation on drilling? I agree with Joe that it is worth it, but I've been seeing all over the progressive blogosphere (and also in my own progressive group of employ) that a lot of people really don't think it is. I can understand that; we're all tired of Democrats giving in to conservative arguments every f**ing day. We want to put our stake in the ground, draw our line in the sand, and actually stick to our principles.

Thing is, the way I hear it, while that should be one's general mentality, sometimes legitimate compromise is warranted. If this bill can pass by seemingly-undefeatable GOP filibuster machine, I think Dems should vote for it.

From the folks at the Breakthrough Institute, I understand that massive investment in renewables is THE primary way to transition to a clean energy future. From Joe Romm, I understand that efficiency is THE way. From my friend who works at AWEA, I know that THE most important thing for renewables to get massive investment is the stability brought by long-term tax credits. From my work in the green building field, I know that tax credits make building efficiency improvements skyrocket.

So isn't it worth maybe giving Republicans their stupid, pointless, harmful desires in order to

  1. Save face in a messaging war that we're losing, and
  2. Get exactly what we've been working toward for years?

I think it is. I hope you agree.

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Interesting post (0.00 / 0)
I'd like to at least improve it closer to the Salazar/Udall plan

And even bolder ideally. But if it was even improved to something close to what Udall and Salazar are proposing and it could pass both chambers without being weekend I would have to say it would be smart politics and policy to support the bill.

The Republican leadership and Bush are not going to support this, by passing a Salazar/Udall/Gang of 10 bill those Republicans would show how little they care about results and I think we would then have a big advantage on this energy issue.

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

What on earth is wrong with incentives for CO2 sequestration? (0.00 / 0)
I was under the impression that CO2 sequestrations should be mandated, not merely incentivized, because of the consequences for curtailing global warming. Is that your point? It doesn't read that way.... **

Overall, you seem to have made a strong case, though it's not really clear how optimal this plan may be, and what the expected impact is.

E.g., "tax incentives for consumers to purchase non-petro-fueled cars or retrofit old ones to run on other things". Can this be applied to air cars, which will hopefully be on the market in the US within a year or two? Wouldn't air cars make far more sense, pollution-wise and economically*, for cars only needed within urban areas, e.g.?

Has any work been done to try and figure out the net/net in terms of oil consumption and greenhouse gas production?

* I mean over-all. It may be bad for the major auto companies and the auto repair business.
** Just noticed that this will be addressed in Part 4

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