Asked about surging crude oil and gas prices on Tuesday, President Bush once again pushed for the passage of his failed energy legislation, imploring Congress to “pass the energy bill.” But the flaws in the president’s failed plan are well-documented. Rather than committing resources to renewable energy sources that could clean up the environment and help America achieve real energy independence, the bill would encourage our reliance on fossil fuels and exhaust our natural resources. In fact, far from validating the president’s previous legislation, the current oil crisis underscores America’s need to break from the very policies Bush has proposed.
LEGISLATION WOULD MAKE THINGS WORSE: The president dissembled on Tuesday about the effect his legislation could have had, implying the passage of his energy bill would have lowered gas prices and helped the country “become less dependent on foreign sources of energy.” But Bush’s energy bill, written by Vice President Dick Cheney’s secret energy task force with the help of oil industry executives – including former Enron executive Ken Lay – was a subsidy-laden giveaway which would have done little to promote conservation or alternative fuels. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimates the plan would “increase pollution, despoil the environment, threaten public health and accelerate global warming. Moreover, it would have no impact on energy prices, and no practical effect on U.S. dependence on foreign sources of oil.”
DRILLING IN THE ARCTIC IS NO SOLUTION: The president also reiterated his assertion that the answer to America’s energy needs was drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. “Had we drilled in ANWR back in the mid-’90s,” he said, “we’d be producing an additional million barrels a day, which would be taking enormous pressure off the American consumer.” In fact, while drilling in the region could potentially despoil one of “the world’s last truly pristine wild places,” the U.S. Geological Survey estimates the amount that could be recovered economically from the refuge would total roughly 3.2 billion barrels, only about a six-month U.S. supply. Moreover, “it would take 10 years for that oil to reach the pump, and even when production peaks — in the distant year of 2027 — the refuge would produce less than 2 percent of the oil Americans are expected to use that year.”
FALLING BEHIND ON ENERGY INDEPENDENCE: The NYT reports Europe has been less affected by the current spike in oil prices because of its growing investment in alternative sources of energy, such as windmills and solar cells, which has reduced the continent’s dependence on foreign oil. America, meanwhile, has remained “on the sidelines” as foreign powers pursue alternative technologies. Plans such as the Apollo Project, a bold new initiative to “end America’s dependence on foreign oil,” could help America catch up. Instead, President Bush’s budget has slashed funding for renewable energy programs. In his 2004 budget, “Funding for wind power…was cut by 5.5 percent. Geothermal technology also received a 3.8 percent funding hit.” (Read American Progress CEO John Podesta’s case for the Apollo Project here.)
DRYING UP THE LAND: More proof that America needs to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels: According to federal documents, “nearly three-fourths of the 40 million acres of public land leased for oil and gas development in the continental United States aren’t producing any oil or gas.” Nevertheless, “the Bush administration pushes to open more environmentally sensitive public lands for oil and gas development.” In the face of the nation’s dwindling resources, Cheney’s Energy task Force “asked the [Bureau of Land Management] three years ago to find ways to open new federal lands to oil and gas leasing and to speed up the approval of drilling permits.”
BUSH POLICIES MAKE GAS PROBLEM WORSE: The Bush administration has made matters worse with policies that encourage consumption, such as providing “massive tax breaks to purchasers of SUVs.” Although high gas-prices may be tempering enthusiasm for the gas-guzzling vehicles, the administration’s tax policies have left a loophole allowing some buyers to “write off the entire cost of a new Hummer, or more than 30 other monster trucks or SUVs.”