The energy bill, a missed opportunity

Published 1:37 pm Tuesday, August 23, 2005

By By Tray Smith
With gas prices at $2.49 (and probably more by the time you read this), it is time for Americans to demand that Congress takes concrete steps to help bring prices down. The recently passed energy bill does nothing to help gas prices in the short-term and nothing notable in the long-term to reduce our gas shortage. Instead, it is filled with wasteful subsidies to corporations already making record profits. The little good it does do is on the utilities side of the energy spectrum, and power bills are relatively stable.
Some of you may remember the gas crises of the late 70's. That problem was caused by a decrease in oil supply. Until then we had not imported very much of our oil. Today's gas increases, however, or due to a rise in demand. Emerging economic powers like China and India continue to consume more oil, which means less for everybody else. So any solution will have to reduce demand and increase supply at the same time.
What Congress should have done and hopefully will do soon is pass laws increasing fuel efficiency standards (the laws that force automakers to make the vehicles get a certain gas mileage) for all vehicles, including SUV's. They would need to be gradually implemented so as not to hurt our automakers financially, but they should be able to be completely phased in by around 2010. The technology already exists to increase fuel efficiency by up to one-third, but it just is not as profitable for auto manufacturers to produce cars that meet that standard. Unfortunately, Republicans are strongly opposed to this idea.
To increase supply, Congress should have and hopefully will soon allow us to drill more oil in Alaska as President Bush has proposed, but the Democrats are against drilling there because of environmental concerns. Their concerns are unjustified, however, because the piece of federal land in Alaska that President Bush proposes drilling on is in the middle of no where and would only be about three to four square miles with the use of advanced drilling technology. It would also have safeguards for environmental protection. And another small detail, it has an estimated 16 billion barrels of oil reserves, or nearly 30 years of imports from Saudi Arabia
While both parties agree on research for renewable, domestically produced fuels like hydrogen, we can expect any major developments to be at least a decade away. So, then we end up with the Democrats ruling out the best way to help ease our gas shortages in the short-term, and the Republicans ruling out a solution to decrease demand for the longer-term. My advice is to do both, but I doubt it will happen. Republicans will most likely be able to pass a bill for drilling in Alaska this fall without the Democrats votes, and then increased fuel efficiency standards will be dead.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail me. To help you hold you elected officials accountable, you should know that Congressman Bonner of our district rightfully voted "No" on the energy bill, but Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby of Alabama each unfortunately voted "Yes".
Tray Smith is a political columnist for the Atmore Advance and is a freshman at Escambia Academy. His column appears on Sundays. He can be reached at tsmth_90@hot

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