With the House of Representative's narrow passage of the Waxman-Markey energy bill, Congress is one step closer to passing the most consequential U.S. energy legislation in America's history.
As the Senate prepares to take up the bill, opposition is understandably focused on the bill's content and the economic fallout that will result from the bill's becoming law. But I've got some front-end questions that bill proponents have yet to answer sufficiently. Before it's too late to put on the brakes, the public deserves some straight answers.
â€¢ What are the reasons this legislation is necessary in the first place? Can you offer anything beyond emotionalism and muddled platitudes? Anything beyond cookie-cutter messages about a better future for our grandchildren? Where are the facts, numbers, and hard data?
If this is about saving our planet, where's the evidence that we're at risk of destroying it? Why no mention of U.S. environmental successes, particularly relative to other countries? Why not tell the public that we're breathing cleaner air than we have in decades? How forest area is not in peril? How great of an environmental track record our nation's oil-and-gas drillers have? As our population continues to grow and adapt, why is the news only grim?
If this is about global warming, can you prove the existence of a major threat and that this bill will counter it? Theories alone are inadequate bases upon which to pass legislation, particularly legislation as broad as that before you. Computer models can spit out any projections we want, depending on the inputs. They predict climate doom, yet their drastic projections have yet to be realized or observed in nature.
If this is about greenhouse-gas emissions, where is the proof that carbon dioxide and other GHGs are, on balance, bad for the earth and humanity? Any real-world evidence that GHG emissions will lead us to catastrophe?
Moreover, assuming CO2 and other GHGs are, on balance, negative, then why no acknowledgment that the U.S. controls emissions more successfully than the developing world and that the future emissions from the developing world will dwarf those of the industrialized?
And why unfounded hopes that other major emitters will curb emissions, once we do? We have zero assurances from China and India, so why perpetuate the fallacy that our adoption of a failed experiment will solve the world's purported climate problems? Where's the realism?
If this is about freeing us from dependence on foreign oil, why so little talk about the common-sense solution of extracting of more of our domestic resources, while searching for alternatives that can make meaningful contributions to our transportation-fuel supply?
More broadly, why the urgency? Why not more time for thorough cost-benefit analyses? Why hurriedly push a bad bill, just to get something passed? Why so little mention of President Obama's campaign iteration that electricity prices, under his energy plans, "would necessarily skyrocket"?
Why no better acceptance of the fundamental economic reality that raising the cost of producing energy will lead to less energy, which is the opposite of what our country needs, as we continue to grow?
Why no acknowledgment that the countries that take the best care of their environment are the richest? Why no talk that this bill will lower national wealth and, thus, lead to more environmental neglect and degradation?
Instead of putting the law ahead of technology and economics, why not employ some common-sense solutions to meeting our growing energy needs, while also protecting the environment? Why so little talk of ramping up zero-carbon-emission nuclear power, which, unlike renewables, can meet bulk-energy demand?
Why not tap more of our nation's abundant natural fuels, in ways that are as or more environmentally friendly than other nations? Instead of mandating unrealistic levels of renewables, why not prudently allow time for technology and economics to improve, so renewables can make larger and longer-lasting contributions to our diversified energy supply?
Final question: Have you read the 1,428-page bill, so that you know what you're voting on?
You're poised to pass the most far-reaching energy legislation in our nation's history, but you've yet to give the public answers to these and other basic questions about our nation's energy policy. Now is a perfect chance to answer. The floor is yours. --------- Drew Thornley is an independent policy analyst whose latest report, "Energy and the Environment: Myths and Facts," was published by the Manhattan Institute.
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