It is a further example of the deep dysfunction of our government. Bad enough that Wall Street was bailed out while dragging down the economic standing of the nation together with trillions of its citizens' dollars, only now to find Wall Street blithely going back to fat bonuses and fatter salaries. This while home foreclosures continue on almost unabated and retirees have to go back to work because their nest eggs have been devastated. But Congress is shameless, ever genuflecting to special interests even when trying to do well.
On Friday the House passed legislation in the form of a 1200 page bill addressing the very real and urgent concerns of global warming. Here was an effort, difficult to navigate as it was, to deal with an the issue of profound long term consequences. It was focused on transforming the way the nation produces and uses energy to curb the heat trapping gases linked to climate change. Cap-and-trade is at its core, meant to limit the emissions of CO2 gases, gases that are rapidly building up in the atmosphere at unacceptable and existentially dangerous levels given their shelf life of up to 1,000 years, or in terms of the human experience, an infinity.
The legislation would impact a broad spectrum of industries and professions including electric power generation, manufacturing, agriculture, construction and architectural design. And yes their would be clear winners for those new or underutilized technologies that can become contributors to the new carbon economy- Wind, Solar, geothermal, would receive a big boost. The bill mandates that 20% of the nation's electricity come from such sources by 2020.
Here the focus is to support carbon free initiatives and to step away where possible from fossil fuels. Coal and oil derived products, i.e. gasoline, diesel, and heating oil, are in the line of fire and the coal industry is deeply concerned consumption will diminish drastically. Coal of course is loaded with carbon. The bill provides concessions for "clean" coal projects, an important plus for the coal industry and coal producing states. A classic example of entrenched interests protecting entrenched infrastructure.
Yet the bill has a glaring omission. There is practically no reference nor programmatic inclusion of natural gas in the bill. Given the fact that natural gas, though a fossil fuel, is vastly more efficient and cleaner burning than coal or petroleum based products, this is a glaring and inexcusable omission explained only by the malign power of vested industrial and political interests. Doubly so, in that with new drilling technology the natural gas reserves within the United States alone have literally exploded over the last half dozen years. In Louisiana the Haynesville Shale Basin is now considered to hold a store of BTU's equivalent to that of the North Slope. This while the huge Marcellus Basin encompassing much of Pennsylvania and New York State holds as much, and possibly much more. Our gas reserves have expanded by a factor of nearly five. And that may be just the beginning. And to point out the obvious, they are all on shore and all within the Continental United States. Not to speak of the clear benefits at hand to our balance of payments and security interests. Perhaps even more tellingly, these reserves lie under a massive nationwide distribution network of 2 ½ million miles of pipeline.
The Department of Energy today is a very different organization than under the Bush administration. Its focus is the well being of its fellow citizens and not the parochial interests of the oil industry and the energy field. It is staffed with people of scientific competence determined to deal with issues of green house warming in a decidedly pro-active way.
And yet the Department of Energy is not Congress. It is a Department that understands what needs be done and that science tells us we must move aggressively. Their pragmatism can best be summarized quoting their working credo: "are changes cost effective, materially significant, timely".
That should be the Energy Bill's watchword as well. Without a clear provision and mandate for natural gas the "American Clean Energy and Security Act" will be a failed bill, and if not, certainly something far less than it could have been.
May I close in recommending to you a video broadcast of an interview with former Senator Timothy Wirth of Colorado. Succinctly, without bombast he instructs us all on the fatal consequences of the omission of a great national resource at this time, at this moment of urgent action and government resolve.